Cronyn’s Poison, Rubio’s Choice

You’d have to say that Marco Rubio and Harry Reid don’t exactly see eye to eye on immigration legislation. Last week Rubio raised eyebrows by saying the Gang of Eight legislation with which he has been immensely identified didn’t have the 60 votes needed to survive a Senate filibuster. He counseled delay and modifications to bring more Republicans on board. Reid responded by scheduling floor action on the unmodified bill for this week. Then Rubio revealed he’d been working behind the scenes with Gang of Eight opponent John Cornyn to develop a “border enforcement” amendment that would not only boost the vote total for a Senate bill, but would open up House Republican hearts and minds to comprehensive reform.

Reid’s answer to that thinly veiled demand for a bill that would focus on Marco Rubio’s distinctive political needs came out bluntly yesterday, as Reid called Cornyn’s amendment a “poison pill” (on Univision, no less) echoing the private assessment of reform proponents. This declaration is likely to stiffen Democratic resistance to any significant preemptive surrender to Cornyn’s demands (as channeled by Rubio). And it will also make it much harder for Rubio for keep playing both sides agains the middle.

If Rubio backs anything like Cornyn’s amendment as it’s been explained so far, he will have cast his lot with those who say they’re fine with comprehensive immigration reform so long as it’s actually not comprehensive at all. That’s probably good for his standing in early 2016 Republican primary states, but if it unravels the thin Gang of Eight consensus in the Senate, it will be hard not to hope he falls between two stools and earns the contempt of both sides.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.