Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is in the final lap of the Gang of Eight wrangling in the Senate. Republicans who will never vote for any immigration bill with a remote chance to pass the Senate can be spotted and ignored (e.g. Jeff Sessions, Mike Lee, Ted Cruz). The question involves the rest of the as-yet-undecided Republicans. The four GOP senators from the Gang of Eight, along with Kelly Ayotte and Orrin Hatch, are essentially on board.
At this stage it doesn’t matter what sort of fuss Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and his colleagues, media allies and third-party allies say. If Rubio puts forth an amendment on border security that draws a large number of GOP senators, then Schumer can either get on board or kill immigration reform. He doesn’t get to avoid that choice.
Rubio explained what he has in mind in an interview with the right-leaning Washington Examiner:
Let’s detail what the border plan is, so when members vote for this bill, they’re not voting for the promise of coming up with a border plan in the future, they’re voting on a border plan that we have seen, that we have talked to Border Patrol agents about and that we actually know how many miles of fence, how many sensors, how many cameras, what we’re actually asking them to complete before the green-card process can start.
The second aspect of it that we’re going to have to have a debate about is: How can we measure? So, not just input-based. But how do we measure on the back end how the program is working? How do we measure whether it’s successfully been implemented?
[The Democrats] don’t want anything to make the path to citizenship uncertain. But it already is conditioned. The path to citizenship in this bill — the path to that green card — it’s already conditioned on the full implementation of e-verify [standards for employers]. It’s already conditioned on the full implementation of the entry-exit tracking system. And, the last thing is, it’s got to be fully conditioned on the completion of the specific border plan that we detail.
It the plan he offers up does those things (and he will have already gotten buy-in from Republicans seeking to figure out how to vote “yes”), then I suspect the Gang of Eight will have a great number of Republicans sign on. Then we will know whether the president and the Dems want a bill or an issue with which to beat their opponents.
With the second term melting down for Obama and the real potential of the Senate flipping control to the Republicans, the border-enhanced bill’s chances with Democrats improve. Otherwise the second term is nothing but deadlock, hearings and scandals. It’s not my preference, but it would be partial consolation if Schumer et al. boot away immigration reform.