Rubio always preferred a package of immigration bills

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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In what has been portrayed as a flip-flop, Sen. Marco Rubio recently said he no longer supports a comprehensive immigration reform bill.

For a guy who spent a lot of political capital selling conservatives on the Senate bill, this sounds like a big reversal. It’s actually not — not if you consider this Wall Street Journal piece on Rubio from January:

“In terms of legislative strategy, Mr. Rubio says he would want to see “a comprehensive package of bills”—maybe four or five as opposed to one omnibus—move through Congress concurrently. He says other experience with ‘comprehensive’ reform (ObamaCare, the recent debt deal) shows how bad policy easily sneaks into big bills. It would also offer a tempting big target for opponents. Other reformers think that only a comprehensive bill can address the toughest issues. ‘It’s not a line in the sand for me,’ replies Mr. Rubio.”

Of course, Rubio is now linked to the Senate bill. “The Senate moved in the direction towards doing it in one bill,” Rubio explained (via the Tampa Bay Times). “I participated in that process because I thought it was a good way to start the conversation.”

A conversation starter, eh? Well then mission accomplished!

In fairness, there was a conservative argument for a comprehensive bill. As Sen. Jeff Flake told me: “[T]he bottom line is [border security] was easier to get as part of the broader package, where that was what conservatives got.”

Now, Rubio clearly realizes that a comprehensive bill has no realistic chance of passing the House, and so, he’s reverting to what he always thought was a better option, anyway.

If you don’t like immigration reform, this is a moot point. But if you see this as a flip-flop, well that’s probably not fair, either. This strikes me as having more to do with a strategic assessment based on what is realistically possible rather than an example of inconsistency.

Matt K. Lewis