How the Immigration Reform Debate Could Make or Break Marco Rubio

BY Terence Burlij and Christina Bellantoni  June 17, 2013 at 9:30 AM EDT

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.; photo by Drew Angerer/Getty ImagesOn Sunday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. said the immigration bill is nearly “ready to go.”
The Morning Line

Two weeks remain until Congress is scheduled to break for the Fourth of July holiday, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has declared is the deadline for his chamber to complete work on a comprehensive immigration reform bill. With the clock ticking, and amendments piling up, backers of the proposal took to the Sunday talk shows to tout its prospects for final passage.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a member of the bipartisan group that drafted the legislation, reiterated his position that the border security elements of the package must be strengthened in order for the measure to stand a real shot at winning passage through both the House and Senate.

“I think it’s an excellent starting point, and I think 95, 96 percent of the bill is in perfect shape and ready to go. But there are elements that need to be improved,” the Republican said during an appearance on ABC’s “This Week.”

“I think the debate now is about what that border security provision looks like. And if we do that, this bill will have strong bipartisan support,” Rubio added. “If we fail, we’re going to keep trying, because at the end of the day, the only way we’re going to pass an immigration reform law out of the House and Senate so the president can sign it is, that it has real border security measures within it.”

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., another member of the so-called Gang of Eight, said Democrats would consider other border security provisions, so long as they were not being offered as a way to derail the overall bill. “We’re open to constructive elements of how border security can be further achieved, but not, if at the end of the day, you’re just simply using that as an excuse not to permit a pathway to legalization,” Menendez said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

Menendez also dismissed talk that Rubio might walk away from the compromise without additional border security enhancements to the plan. “I think he is so into this process that I think he would lose out not to continue. And I have no indication that he has no desire or intention not to continue,” Menendez said. “He’s been a very good ally in this Gang of Eight and has been very helpful in bringing people to the bill as has Lindsey Graham and John McCain and Jeff Flake.”

Still, Politico’s Manu Raju and Carrie Budoff Brown report that by charting his own course to sell the immigration proposal Rubio has unnerved some of his fellow Gang of Eight members:

The Florida Republican has spent hours strategizing in private with the bipartisan group of senators, but he hasn’t appeared in public with them since late April — nixing requests for press conferences after the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the immigration bill, according to Democrats, and most recently, for a joint interview on Univision.

His public absences from his partners show the difficult line he is walking on immigration — trying to woo conservative activists wary of the bill while keeping the Gang of Eight bill moving.

It’s a Senate trial by fire. Rubio is attempting to master a treacherous legislative process that has confounded lawmakers with decades of experience. The success or failure of the immigration overhaul bill will largely determine whether his efforts are seen as the shrewd mechanisms of a kingmaker or the political naiveté of a third-year senator.

Politico’s Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman, meanwhile, write that Rubio’s work on the immigration bill has brought with it some political risk, the most worrisome of which to the senator’s advisers being the potential for the Florida Republican to get labeled as a Washington insider.

The political consequences associated with immigration reform also are on the minds of Rubio’s fellow Republicans.

Graham, R-S.C., said the GOP could do further damage to the party’s brand if it blocks a bill from moving forward. “If we don’t pass immigration reform, if we don’t get it off the table in a reasonable, practical way, it doesn’t matter who you run in 2016,” Graham said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “We’re in a demographic death spiral as a party and the only way we can get back in good graces with the Hispanic community in my view is pass comprehensive immigration reform. If you don’t do that, it really doesn’t matter who we run in my view.”

Menendez agreed with Graham’s assessment. “I would tell my Republican colleagues, both in the House and the Senate, that the road to the White House comes through a road with a pathway to legalization. Without it, there’ll never be a road to the White House for the Republican Party,” said the New Jersey Democrat.

For lawmakers, the more immediate concern is the bill itself, and the fight over more than 100 amendments that have so far been filed.

The Hill’s Ramsey Cox looks at six amendments worth keeping an eye on, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn’s border security proposal, Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy’s provision to provide equal protection to immigrants in same-sex marriages and Rubio’s modification to the English language requirement in the bill.

The Washington Post’s David Nakamura and Sandhya Somashekhar note that Republicans are also using President Barack Obama’s health care law as a way to impede progress on immigration reform.

Despite the slog ahead, Graham said he has “never been more optimistic” about the plan’s chances for passage. “I think we’re going to have a political breakthrough, that Congress is going to pass immigration reform. I think we’re going to get plus 70 votes.”

Such a result would ramp up pressure on the Republican-controlled House, where GOP leaders have indicated they would prefer to pass a series of smaller measures rather than the comprehensive plan being debated in the Senate.

SEVEN DAYS A WEEK

The PBS NewsHour is announcing Monday an exciting expansion — the addition of “PBS NewsHour Weekend.”

Starting Sept. 7, Hari Sreenivasan will anchor 30-minute Saturday and Sunday broadcasts. They may have a shorter format but the goal is the same: in-depth analysis of the day’s national and international news and original field reporting.

“It’s an evolution in NewsHour’s commitment to being a reliable, trusted news source that’s available anywhere, anytime, weekdays, weekends and online,” he said.

“We are so fortunate to be a part of the next chapter of the NewsHour, bringing this trusted brand to audiences on air and online on the weekends,” WNET President and CEO Neal Shapiro said in announcing the move.

The program will be produced by New York PBS member station WNET and broadcast out of the Tisch WNET studios.

Sreenivasan said the new show will allow local PBS member stations the opportunity to include local news at the end of the broadcast, and outlined a few other changes that will further connect viewers to the PBS NewsHour.

“I’d like to infuse the public in the content creation and content distribution using different tools to see how we can best engage with smart audiences,” he said. That could mean Google Hangouts, live chats and other social media platforms.

The changes come as recent news stories have highlighted challenges facing the show in an evolving media universe. We’ll have more detail on Monday’s NewsHour. Watch here.

LINE ITEMS

  • Mr. Obama began his trip abroad with a speech to youth in Belfast. He’s expected to have a full plate at Group of Eight meetings this week before giving a speech at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin.
  • Also on the trip, First Lady Michelle Obama this week will visit Trinity College and explore archives “documenting the Obamas’ Irish ancestry.”
  • A new CNN poll released Monday found the president’s approval rating has dropped eight percentage points over the past month, with half of respondents saying they don’t believe Mr. Obama is “honest and trustworthy.”

“The drop in Obama’s support is fueled by a dramatic 17-point decline over the past month among people under 30, who, along with black Americans, had been the most loyal part of the Obama coalition,” CNN Polling Director Keating Holland said. “It is clear that revelations about NSA surveillance programs have damaged Obama’s standing with the public, although older controversies like the IRS matter may have begun to take their toll as well.”

  • Michael Hayden, the former director of the CIA, said Sunday there is a “misunderstanding” when it comes to the government’s surveillance programs.
  • Roll Call’s Shira Toeplitz and Abby Livingston detail how the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Voting Rights Act could scramble Texas’ map.
  • West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin is answering the NRA’s ad against him with his own television spot.
  • The New York Times’ Trip Gabriel examined the relationship between Kentucky Sens. Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.
  • The Fix looks at the most interesting gubernatorial races this year and next.
  • Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush on Friday said at the Faith and Freedom Coalition that immigrants contribute to the economy and are more “fertile.”
  • Bush also called former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton a “formidable force” on the left.
  • Thomas Jefferson was very much into winemaking. Read his letters and others from the Founders at the National Archives newly released online document trove.
  • This 1993 reminder of the United States’ record arming rebel forces is making the rounds on the Internet.
  • With federal revenues up higher than expected, addressing the debt limit is now “clearly a post-August recess issue,” House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Friday. He and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., will soon embark on listening tour across the country as they tackle tax reform — the specifics of which they wouldn’t address.
  • Ashley Parker of the New York Times writes about Texas GOP Sen. John Cornyn and his controversial border security amendment to the Senate immigration bill.
  • Last week marked the one-year anniversary of Mr. Obama’s DREAM Act decision. On Friday, journalist-turned-advocate Jose Antonio Vargas will debut in Washington his documentary on the topic, “Undocumented.”
  • Christmas is saved. Thanks, Rick Perry!
  • Photos from the annual Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.
  • The Supreme Court has two weeks left in its term, and still 19 cases for which to announce decisions. We’re watching a few major topics that have yet to see the justices’ opinions: affirmative action in higher education, the Voting Rights Act section 5, and California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which both involve same-sex marriage.
  • The NewsHour homepage will host SCOTUSblog’s live coverage of Monday’s decisions, which will come beginning at 10 a.m. For more in-depth Supreme Court coverage of the 2012-2013 term, visit our page.

NEWSHOUR ROUNDUP

  • The NewsHour on Friday looked at the administration’s decision to aid the rebel forces. Jeff Brown spoke with former State Department official Vali Nasr and former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski.

Watch the segment here or below:

[ DUE TO RIGHTS RESTRICTIONS, VIDEO IS NO LONGER AVAILABLE ]

  • Mark Shields and David Brooks discussed Syria, Edward Snowden and surveillance programs Friday night. Watch here or below:

 

  • And Christina hosted the Doubleheader, with the guys weighing in on Hillary Clinton’s ambition and the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game.

Watch here or below:

 

  • Larisa Epatko will live blog the Guantanamo Bay military commission Monday.
  • Our data team has some interesting infographics examining the NSA’s surveillance program.
  • While Common Core curriculum standards are intended to provide comparable preparation to all students, that may not set up all students for success in the workforce, argues economist Robert Lerman.

TOP TWEETS

 

 

 

 

 

Simone Pathe and Meredith Garreston contributed to this report.

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Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

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