After joining the Senate Gang of Eight that wrote the current bill, Rubio emerged as an enthusiastic champion. But as conservative criticism has grown, he has gotten more pessimistic, and expressed agreement with some Republicans who say the bill he helped write is flawed.
Whats stymieing efforts in the Senate is not my comments, Rubio insisted. Whats stymieing efforts in the Senate is that we dont have the votes to pass it because too many members on both sides of the aisle do not believe it goes far enough on border security.
Advocates of reform say they understand Rubios delicate dance and think he is too far in now to back away but fear the bill will move too far to the right.
I can understand the value of being hard to pin down, said Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum. But Sen. Rubio is at his best when he has a clear strategy on how he is going to build consensus. You cant build consensus in one place and then go around the corner and try to undermine it.
Rubios Gang of Eight colleagues do not sound worried. I think hes trying to grow the vote, said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., sounded as if he were working off Rubios talking points: My view has always been that the American people will support commonsense solutions to the 11 million [undocumented migrants in the country] and future legal immigration if they feel future illegal immigration will be stopped and a strengthened border is a good part of that.
One of the ideas Rubio is helping develop would shift the responsibility of developing a border-security strategy from the Department of Homeland Security to Congress.
Rubio also has worked with Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, who is proposing a sweeping amendment that would require 100 percent operational control the U.S-Mexico border before undocumented migrants can get permanent legal status. Cornyn would add more Border Patrol agents and exclude immigrants who have committed more-serious misdemeanors from qualifying for legal status.
Against wobbly signs, GOP strategist Karl Rove, took to The Wall Street Journal on Thursday with a warning:
As the Senate takes up immigration reform next week, Republicans must consider the impressions they will create by what they say, the changes they propose and their votes on the final product.