What do you think? Leave a respectful comment.

Rubio Leads Charge to Sway Conservatives on Immigration

Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Robert Menendez, D-N.J., and Richard Durbin, D-Ill., at a press conference on their immigration proposal. Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

The dynamics of the push to pass true immigration reform through Congress have all the makings of a political melodrama.

Much of the reporting out Tuesday focuses on the uphill battle ahead and 2016 presidential ambitions — with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., as the focal point.

Then there is the renewed energy from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., once considered a driving force behind a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants and later derided as abandoning the issue.

At the conclusion of his first term, President Obama echoed George W. Bush’s own regrets about failing to ink a comprehensive plan and now has the political momentum behind him.

But keep an eye on activists in the states. As several lawmakers cautioned, there was a time when it seemed like immigration reform was all systems go under a Republican president — two times, in fact. But among the forces putting the brakes on the 2006 and 2007 drives for a broad immigration package were the conservative media echo chamber, and angry people burning up the congressional phone lines to complain about “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Consider the statement issued Monday by FAIR, one of the groups that orchestrated protests and phone campaigns to block the efforts under President Bush. The hyper-conservative immigration reform group called one part of the proposal “amnesty for all.”

It is virtually identical to the failed amnesty bill of 2007. Americans so forcefully opposed that bill that their calls to the Senate in June of 2007 shut down the Capitol switchboard. Secondly, the senators’ proposal entirely ignores the painful lessons of the 1986 amnesty. In the 1986 amnesty bill, Congress granted amnesty to the entire illegal population and promised enforcement of the laws, yet the enforcement never came and the illegal population quadrupled in 20 years. The Gang of Eight, however, appears to be optimistic that their proposal will somehow work when others have failed.

Has the political tide turned? Some former naysayers have offered tentative approval.

Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer issued a lukewarm statement Monday emphasizing the border security aspect of the deal. Others openly embraced the forthcoming deal. The Chamber of Commerce is on board. A few vocal House Republicans made clear they don’t like it, but leadership kept quiet.

Rubio has been on what Huffington Post’s Jon Ward dubbed a “charm offensive” to woo conservative talkers who might not be on board. He’s dropped by the Mark Levin Show, and Bill O’Reilly told the senator on air he thought the plan is “fair.”

Radio king Rush Limbaugh hasn’t spoken with Rubio on air but plans to today. He told his millions of listeners Monday he views himself as the man who can stop the push. “It’s up to me and Fox News,” Limbaugh said, according to Talking Points Memo “and I don’t think Fox News is that invested in this.”

“I don’t think there’s any Republican opposition to this of any majority consequence or size. We’ll have to wait and see and find out. But this is one of those, just keep plugging away, plugging away, plugging away until you finally beat down the opposition,” Limbaugh said.

But from a political perspective, Republicans are acknowledging that an embrace of a comprehensive plan could boost their chances in future elections. Roll Call’s David Drucker got ahold of a memo from the Hispanic Leadership Network urging the GOP to use “tonally sensitive” and avoid “negative tone and harsh rhetoric” when speaking to the immigration debate.

Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin — the Democratic Majority Whip, also known as the guy who counts the votes — told Judy Woodruff on Monday’s NewsHour that he’s optimistic about this deal at this moment.

“I don’t want to say confident because I’m a senator. And, you know, I spend my whole life disappointed. I have been 12 years on the DREAM Act. But I have never felt better about it and more positive,” he said.

Mr. Obama on Tuesday afternoon will lay out specifics — and go further than the Senate proposal which requires those seeking full citizenship to wait for improved border security — while embracing the broad outlines of the deal. The stories in Tuesday’s papers repeatedly used the word “progressive” to describe what the president will detail.

The Washington Post reported that Mr. Obama will “emphasize differences that could foreshadow roadblocks to passage in Congress.” More from the story:

For example, the Senate proposal would let illegal immigrants obtain legal residency quickly. But it would not allow them to seek full citizenship until border security had been improved and a new system was in place for employers to verify the employment status of workers.

Obama will not endorse such a proposal, the administration official said. The president intends to make clear the need for a more straightforward route for un­documented workers and students to obtain citizenship, reflecting fears among advocates that a cumbersome process would create a decades-long wait for some migrants.

Republican senator and Gang of Eight member Jeff Flake, in a NewsHour interview with Gwen Ifill Monday, acknowledged the reasons the proposal came so early in the 113th Congress.

Some of us have been at this a while. We felt that we have got to deal with this issue. But also the election had a way of focusing our attention on this issue … For those who aren’t particularly as excited as I am and others are about the prospect of immigration reform, I think a lot of those same people want to get this issue in the rear-view mirror. And so there’s motivation to get it behind us for those who don’t want to deal with it as well. And so I think that we have the planets aligned here now to move ahead.

Watch the segment, including the interviews with Durbin and Flake, here or below:

We’ll live stream President Obama’s speech here and cover it on Tuesday’s broadcast.


The Daily Download segment is back for a new series of conversations exploring how the digital world affects not just politics, but the culture we live in. Politics editor Christina Bellantoni will be moderating the discussions with Howard Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn from Daily Download.

The trio debuted Monday night with a focus on workplace social media policies, and how companies are being forced to rewrite rules thanks to rapidly changing technology.

Watch here or below:

Here is the interview with Diane O’Meara that Ashburn refers to during the discussion.

And you can join our conversation. Weigh in on our open thread about your own employer’s social media policy, and whether it should evolve.


  • The Senate could vote to confirm Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., as secretary of state as early as today, Reuters reports.

  • Massachusetts will hold a primary contest on April 30 and the special election to fill Kerry’s seat on June 25, the Boston Globe reported. Kerry is likely to resign from the Senate today, setting in motion the special election planning, and allowing Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick to announce the interim senator Wednesday, the article adds.

  • Democratic Rep. Ed Markey, who’s announced a run for the open Massachusetts Senate seat, has asked other (currently unknown) candidates to pledge to avoid Super PAC and third-party money during the race.

  • The Washington Post analyzes #Bqhatevwr and what it might mean for Scott Brown’s chances at the seat.

  • Victims of Hurricane Sandy will see $51 billion in aid, after Congress passed the package Monday.

  • The Louisville Courier-Journal has a new poll that finds Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell with weak support back home. Only 17 percent of voters said they plan to back him, and one in three polled said they would vote against him.

  • Sen. Max Baucus’ campaign has $3.6 million in the bank, a signal the Montana Democrat will have strong support heading into his 2014 re-election bid.

  • Surprise! Megadonor Foster Friess tells Olivier Knox of Yahoo News he still likes Rick Santorum, and wants him to be the GOP nominee in 2016.

  • Attorney General Eric Holder already is moving forward on several gun control related issues within the Justice Department’s purview.

  • Charlie Savage at the New York Times reports the reassignment of a senior State Department staffer means the closing of Guantanamo Bay prison isn’t a priority for Mr. Obama.

  • The Presidential Inauguration Committee monitored thousands of tweets during last week’s ceremonies to pinpoint security threats. Mashable explains how they did it.

  • Here comes the Hillary 2016 SuperPac.

  • And it turns out some Obama donors gave Clinton a parting gift by helping her pay off her last 2008 campaign debt, Bloomberg’s Joshua Green reports.

  • Brian Walsh of the National Republican Senatorial Committee is opening a new firm. And veteran “Young Gun” Brad Dayspring will join the NRSC.

  • A Secret Service dog fell to its death while working a security sweep at a New Orleans parking garage for Vice President Joe Biden.

  • A Minnesota political analyst did the math and found Sarah Palin earned nearly $16 per word — including for a healthy amount of “Amen”s and “heck”s — during her now-ended stint on Fox News.

  • Mitt Romney told former donors he will help the 2016 nominee.

  • Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will deliver a foreign policy speech at the Heritage Foundation next week.

  • The senators from Maryland and California have outlined their SuperBowl bet.

  • Today’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA points out the count of homicides with firearms in the United States. In the past decade, that number has fallen.



For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

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

Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @kpolantz, @indiefilmfan, @tiffanymullon, @dePeystah, @meenaganesan and @abbruns.

The Latest