Look for Marco Rubio to throw his full support -- and star power -- behind the bipartisan immigration compromise bill that could be announced in the next several days. The question is, will his support for the far-reaching overhaul of the nation's immigration system alienate the conservative wing of the party and damage Rubio's chances at higher office, or will it help cement his position as a leading Republican candidate for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination?
According to Politico, the Republican Florida senator is planning to promote the bill on political talk shows starting this weekend, and will reach out to conservative radio hosts and lobby for the plan on Spanish-language news outlets.
One Senate Democratic aide told Politico Thursday: “In poker terms, he has gone all in.”
Members of the so-called bipartisan "Group of Eight" said they are close to finalizing an agreement on the comprehensive proposal that is expected to include a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants and could serve as the template for a deal between Congress and the White House.
The Post's Paul Kane and David Nakamura reported just a couple days ago that Rubio appeared to be cautious about the proposal, anxious for plenty of hearings on the legislation.
“Senator Rubio has said from the outset that we will not rush this process, and that begins at the committee level,” said Alex Conant, Rubio’s spokesman. “The Judiciary Committee must have plenty of time to debate and improve the bipartisan group’s proposal. . . . Senator Rubio will be requesting that his Senate colleagues arrange multiple public hearings on the immigration bill. We believe that the more public scrutiny this legislation receives, the better it will become.”
It now looks as though Rubio wants to own the process now that he is preparing to sign off on the release of the bill this coming Tuesday. Yet he's also still pushing for more hearings and a slower pace than Democrats and the White House want.
“Obviously, we’ll be informing the public, and we’ll want everyone to know everything that’s in the bill,” Rubio told Politico. “We want everyone to know as much of what’s in the bill as possible, and we will use every opportunity we have to communicate that.”
Many Republicans are unwilling to back any measure that would put illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship, so Rubio's strategy carries some risks. Some Republicans have expressed openness to some form of legalization that stops short of a citizenship plan, but such a compromise would draw opposition from many Democrats and immigrant advocates.
His ability to bring conservative Republicans on board will be a real test of his leadership skills in the coming days and weeks.