The anti-immigration reform forces on the right at least have been honest. They don’t want a path to citizenship. In essence, they don’t want any bill that could conceivably be passed. The possibility has always existed that the left’s desire to sink the Republicans was always greater than the desire to get a deal.

I am now concerned, I say this forthrightly given my own stated and strong preference for an immigration deal, that the suspicions about the left may prove to be true.

Two reports today suggest that in response to Republican Sen. John Cornyn’s amendment on border security — which Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has worked on diligently and has signaled his approval — there are some Democrats who now want to reject the only amendment that might get to 60 in the Senate and have any chance in the House. Whether this comes from the White House, from Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) or left-leaning outside groups is not entirely unclear. There are some hints, however, as to what is going on.

David Drucker at the Washington Examiner is told by a Democratic aide who would not go on record:

The Cornyn amendment … would subject immigrants to a “trigger” that is unworkable – period … This effort to make the pathway to citizenship unattainable is a bridge too far and it undermines a key principle of the reform bill. We must have a clear and direct path to citizenship. We want undocumented immigrants to pay their fines, pay their taxes, keep their noses clean and earn the path to citizenship. What we can’t do is subject 11 million people to a standard that is not workable and cannot be achieved by their own efforts.”

The article is entitled “Key Democrats reject GOP immigration amendment.” That suggests the sink-the-only-deal-to-pass attitude is coming from an office that offers to speak on behalf of other Democrats. No other aide or office is cited. Is Schumer’s office or another Gang of 8 Dem spinning on background? Sure seems like it.

Then my colleague Greg Sargent (who has his finger on the pulse of liberals) reports on a liberal immigration group’s reaction, which sounds identical to Drucker’s Senate aide:

Frank Sharry, of the pro-immigration America’s Voice, explains … in an email to me:
Cornyn is trying to box Rubio in, and if he does, we’ve got a problem. Cornyn is taking dead aim at hardening the triggers – threatens the path to citizenship in a big way – in hopes of dragging Rubio to the right. The problem is that Rubio going right loses many Dems. Dicey moment. Cornyn stepped out in front with a proposal for more border security in way that undermines the path to citizenship. Rubio either goes with Cornyn — to look more conservative — and threatens the bipartisan core support for reform, or says no to Cornyn and looks weak, damaging the chance to get 15 Republicans to come in board.

Mr. Sharry is factually and entirely wrong. Cornyn and Rubio have been talking for weeks; Cornyn pointedly did not sign the anti-reform letter generated by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) and other hard-line opponents of immigration reform on the Senate Judiciary Committee; and Rubio in private and in public has praised Cornyn’s efforts. In short, Sharry is out to make it seem as if Cornyn’s effort — i.e. the Republicans — are the problem here.

I asked Rubio’s office about this late this morning. Press secretary Alex Conant e-mails me, which I will quote in full:

One of the reasons why Sen. Rubio was asked to join this effort was to help gain the support of our fellow Republicans. And what most of them are telling us is that they are willing to support the bill, if we can improve the border security measures in it. That is what Sen. Rubio is focused on achieving. Improvements to the bill will not only help us pass this reform in the Senate, but also in the House. Sen. Rubio believes we will be able to offer our colleagues reasonable changes to the bill that if passed will secure our border, allow millions of people living the shadows to assimilate into our country, and help us reform our broken immigration once and for all. That is why if for some reason this effort to improve the bill fails, he will oppose moving to final passage and keep working until we can achieve that goal. To simply line up behind a bill that has no chance of becoming law is a waste of time, and a disservice to our country.

Schumer likely would like a bill, but he also wants the most liberal bill imaginable, especially if the Senate may change hands in 2014. His aspirations are simply unrealistic based upon every conversation I have had with offices of the Republicans on the Gang of Eight and with those still on the fence (several of whom I spoke with on Wednesday.) One GOP aide remarked, “If Senate Democrats are serious about passing a law — and not just having an issue to run on in 2014 and 2016 — then they’ll keep an open mind on the Republicans’ border security amendments.” He was emphatic that a border security amendment is “what it will take to pass a bill with broad bipartisan support and give reform momentum in the House.”

In short, Schumer, the White House and outside groups need to fish or cut bait. Do they want a bill that can pass or are they the flip side of Cruz — they only favor what cannot pass? (Cruz must be doing a happy dance reading what the Dems are up to.) As the GOP aide put it, “If the Democrats reject out-of-hand reasonable amendments like Cornyn’s, then it’s hard to see how reform passes this year.”

I am still hopeful it can, but based on Sargent’s and Drucker’s reporting, I am less optimistic than I was yesterday.