You do wonder whether pundits and mainstream reporters even try to understand what Republicans say and do. They might, for one thing, talk to them or their senior advisers.
The media have been declaring Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to be uncommitted to immigration reform. He’s looking for an “off ramp” or still hasn’t made up his mind about comprehensive immigration reform. He’s accused of “being on the fence.” This is plain wrong.
He has staked and his future shot at president on being the force behind comprehensive immigration reform. He’s engaged with the most vociferous anti-immigration-reform lawmakers, talk-show hosts and bloggers. And now what he has asked for is a transparent process so conservatives don’t get a flashback to the Obamacare jam-it-through-without-reading-it experience. Moreover, he knows that the key to getting GOP approval — and hence getting a bill and winding up as the author of a significant achievement — is to find a key to border security that conservatives can live with.
So when he exerts his influence, saying the process must be open and that a “trigger” on border security must be included, he is accused of trying to worm out of immigration reform. I spoke over the weekend to his communications director, Alex Conant. He was clear that Rubio is using his leverage, not getting ready to bail out. He told me, “Sen. Rubio really isn’t concerned about the Beltway pressure to hurry this process. Obviously some folks in D.C. would rather pass the legislation first and then let the public find out what what’s in it, but we’re not going to allow that.” He recalled, “Sen. Rubio said back in January that he won’t agree to anything until he’s seen the legislative language, and then we must have plenty of daylight in committee hearings and floor debate.”
I asked him if Rubio’s public statements were aimed at getting a deal he wanted. Conant answered, “Correct. He’s been clear and consistent throughout this process. We’re still confident that we’ll help get reform done this year, but we aren’t going to support something that’s inconsistent with his principles.”
On Sunday, Rubio’s chief of staff, Cesar Conda, reiterated that message via Twitter: “Bottom line: @marcorubio is committed to immigration reform. But it has to be consistent with his principles and done the right way.”
No one has more to gain than Rubio if immigration reform passes — and passes with a good share of the GOP support. And, in turn, the Republican Party has much to gain by jump-starting legislation that President Obama did not champion in his first term. Come to think of it, maybe that’s why the media are going to such lengths to minimize Rubio’s role and commitment.