Jeb Bush pulled off a rare feat Tuesday — getting beat up by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill.
A day after Bush’s new book sent shockwaves through delicate negotiations over comprehensive immigration reform, the former Florida governor was a figure of bipartisan disappointment and scorn.
And Bush was doing damage control.
“Let’s wait for a few minutes and see how Jeb Bush changes his mind again,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid scoffed during his weekly news conference. “His opinion on immigration is not evolving; it’s devolving. He keeps going backwards. I think, frankly, he’s made a fool of himself in the last 24 hours.”
Reid went on: “Frankly, on this issue, I don’t think Jeb Bush is a Florida leader. I think Marco Rubio is. Bush has been elected to nothing lately. Rubio is the leader on immigration.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican helping to craft a bipartisan immigration bill, told reporters that Bush has a great voice on immigration but, “I just think this proposal caught me off guard, and it undercuts what we’re trying to do.”
Bush’s book, Immigration Wars, sets out a comprehensive approach but says adult immigrants in the U.S. illegally should not be able to get on a path to citizenship — unless they return to their home country first.
It stands in direct contrast to the Senate approach, which Florida Sen. Rubio is supporting. Rubio, ironically, was once resistant to a path to citizenship, while Bush was seen as a progressive voice on immigration.
Bush spent the day trying to explain himself — and doing some damage control.
On MSNBC, he noted the book was written before talks began on Capitol Hill. He also attempted to walk back, a bit, what the book said.
“If you can craft that in law, where you can have a path to citizenship where there isn’t an incentive for people to come illegally, I’m for it. I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t see you how you do it, but I’m not smart enough to figure out every aspect of a really complex law.”
Rubio, for his part, played down the difference with Bush, his political mentor.
“I think we’re still in the same place in terms of not wanting there to be a special advantage for people who have broken the law,” Rubio told Politico. “What I understand he’s outlined … is kind of something I thought about for a long time and ultimately concluded that it probably isn’t good for the country to have millions of people here who are permanently barred (from) even applying for citizenship. ... It’s been a disaster for Europe.”