Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., visited House conservatives this week to discuss immigration policy, but his effort to garner support for the Gang of Eight’s Senate bill failed, according to Republican sources — in part, because his efforts were hampered by the wave of scandals hitting President Obama’s administration.
The meeting also saw Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, offer dueling predictions about the fate of the bill, with Cruz saying it would “sail through” the Senate while Rubio reiterated his belief that they still don’t have the votes.
“I think you’re going to see more House members get more vocal about trying to stop the Senate bill,” one GOP aide familiar with the Wednesday visit to the Republican Study Committee meeting said in an interview with The Washington Examiner. “I think that was net effect.” The aide noted that “nobody stood up and defended it, nobody stood up and said they supported it.”
Another Republican aide who attended the meeting suggested that IRS scandal was partly to blame for Rubio’s struggle to win allies. “Some conservatives made the presentation of, you know, ‘haven’t we learned from the IRS scandal that we can’t trust this administration?’” the aide told The Examiner. “That, basically, we should be demanding that we fix these discrete problems first — demand that [they] fix this border first, then we’ll talk. And that would give Americans more confident in this reform. That was a point that was made pretty aggressively.” That comment was made after the meeting on Wednesday, before the news of broad Patriot Act surveillance programs broke.
Team Rubio offered a more sanguine view of the meeting.”We felt like we had a very good reception and there’s a lot of openness to immigration reform, so long as we can secure the borders,” a Rubio aide said.
To that end, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas is drafting an amendment to address border security. “The Texas Republican wants stricter border patrol provisional “triggers” before registered immigrants are allowed to apply for green card status,” Politico reports. “His amendment would require 100 percent operational control of the Southern borders and that 90 percent of illegal border crossers be apprehended. It would also require 100 percent border surveillance, or situational awareness, of each one-mile segment of the Southern border and installment of a national E-Verify system before registered immigrants can pursue green cards.”Another conservative aide familiar with the meeting suggested that Democrats won’t agree to anything that would satisfy House Republicans, raising the possibility that a last-minute change might only make it more politically difficult for House Republicans to oppose the bill. “[Rubio] is making it harder for the House to fight this,” the aide said. “He is saying that we’ll work with the gang to get a little bit better border security, even though at the end it isn’t going to be strong enough and essentially making the bill a little bit better in little ways, but that’s going to ultimately make it harder for the House to oppose.” If House Republicans aren’t satisfied with what comes out of the Senate, Rubio warned they’ll still have a fight on their hands because the Obama team plans to “unleash the hounds” to force conservatives to abandon their incremental approach to immigration reform, an RSC meeting attendee said. The aide said that Rubio acknowledged that “there’s a plan right now that when the bill passes the Senate, the White House and Democrats are going to ‘pounce’ — [that] was his word — on the House to try and get them to take up the Senate bill.”
Rubio and Cruz weren’t the only senators to cross the Capitol. Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz, who joined Rubio on the Gang of Eight, attended. So did Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Ariz., Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., who — along with Cruz — oppose the Senate immigration bill.