His Heart Belongs to Amnesty

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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As Rubio Turns? Will Sen. Marco Rubio bolt from the “Gang of 8”–the small group of amnesty-supporting Senators writing an immigration bill–if his call for “multiple hearings” and extensive debate on the bill gets slapped down (as it was, once again, on Sunday’s talk shows by Sen. McCain)?  The answer, I think, is suggested by a close textual reading of Rubio’s letter to fellow Republicans on the Judiciary Committee–Grassley, Sessions, Lee and Cruz–who aren’t part of the “Gang” and are also demanding hearings. In particular, this passage [emphasis added]:

As you know, at the very beginning of this process, my office issued a standing invitation for the entire Republican conference to send me input and ideas on immigration reform. In fact, I specifically asked for proposals on border security, workplace enforcement and a process to handle the millions of people currently in this country who are in violation of our immigration laws. To date, we have received no response from any of your offices. Nevertheless, as I have shared with several of you personally, I have used previous immigration-related bills you and others have filed in the past to ensure your views were reflected in the legislation. That includes a conversation I had with Senator Sessions during the budget votes, where I personally informed him that his amendment to prevent government benefits to undocumented immigrants was consistent with the proposal being worked on by the bipartisan group.

… Earlier this week, I requested and received permission to brief the entire Republican conference during our policy lunch next week. I look forward to briefing you at that meeting. In addition, I have asked my staff to brief the staff of every Republican member of your committee once the details of our starting point proposal are finalized. Rest assured I continue to welcome, value and encourage any input you may have. In the meantime, if you or your staff has any specific ideas on immigration reform, please contact us as soon as possible.

A little snarky, no? I mean, he’s supposed to be agreeing with Grassley, et. al., about the need for hearings. Why bitch at them for not contributing to his amnesty project? As if all immigration ideas had to go through Marco Rubio–and as if it weren’t obvious that the reason Grassley et. al aren’t helping him out is that they think his  “legalization first, enforcement second” approach is fundamentally misguided. Rubio’s gratuitous animus and righteousness suggest, I think, where his sentiments lie, and it’s not with Grassley and the amnesty-skeptics.

I suppose there is a level of GOP grassroots pressure that could force Rubio to bail from the Gang of 8, especially if he plans to run for President (less of a sure thing, I think, than analysts assume). But don’t expect him to bail just because Leahy and McCain humiliate him on the process issue. … [Exhibit B: Cesar Conda, Rubio’s chief of staff. You wouldn’t have him helping to guide your effort if your goal wasn’t amnesty.]

P.S.: The Plan is In the Mail! It now appears that the Gang may delay the already-delayed announcement of their grand plan–it was supposed to be ready when Congress returns from recess (e.g. today). Schumer now says “hopefully … by the end of the week.” Lindesy Graham says he’s “hoping” to get it “done in the next couple of weeks.” Couple? Hoping? When I was writing term papers in college, those words were code for “don’t hold your breath.” Here’s an opposite-of-paranoid (posinoid?) thought: Has the lousy March jobs report convinced the Gang of Eighters that maybe now is not the most auspicious time to make senators vote on whether to bring millions more low-skilled immigrant workers into the job market? Maybe it’s better to wait until there’s some less scary jobs news? I suppose that sort of reasoning is too much to hope for.

P.P.S.: Note that Rubio’s letter also says that Sessions’ proposal to “prevent government benefits to undocumented immigrants” was “consistent” with the Gang of 8 plan. More evidence that the Amnesty Express is not going to be derailed by disputes over benefits or Rubio’s figleaf border-security “trigger,” or even if it stops short of offering full citizenship. The White House’s Dan Pfeiffer has hinted pretty broadly that Obama will eat all these concessions and more in order to get legalization (amnesty)–and why shouldn’t he? Democrats can rely on future Congresses to restore benefits and bestow citizenship. They can rely on ACLU lawsuits and federal judges to block stiff border security measures like fences and E-Verify employment checks. (Nor is it clear that those measures would actually stop a future surge of unauthorized border-crossers in any case). Similarly, business interests can always swallow a small guest worker program now, knowing they can lobby to expand it in the future.

If amnesty won’t be stopped by a train wreck over these side-issues–at least nobody who opposes it should hang any hopes on that–it might be stopped by more fundamental worries over jobs, and the depressing effect of low-skilled immigration on basic wages. (Then senators might make it look like it was stopped by a train wreck over a side issue–arguably what happened in 2007, when the effort seemed to mysteriously founder on a late-night guest-worker vote. If you think that was the real reason you are charmingly naive.)

Coming attraction: The Cruz vs. Rubio throwdown? Sen. Ted Cruz is on the Judiciary Committee.  Even a rushed committee process should give him ample opportunity to voice any opposition to the Rubio/Gang plan. We know whose side the MSM (including Fox) will be on. …

Lucha Kombucha! Accepting reader suggestions for the name of  a dispute between the two top Hispanic Tea Partying GOP presidential contenders. …

Mickey Kaus