A spokesman for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), a member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight,” told Breitbart News exclusively on Saturday that the House should not pass individual piecemeal immigration bills in a “ruse” to get to a conference committee that would result in a comprehensive immigration bill.
“At this point, the most realistic way to make progress on immigration would be through a series of individual bills,” Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said in an email. “Any effort to use a limited bill as a ruse to trigger a conference that would then produce a comprehensive bill would be counterproductive. Furthermore, any such effort would fail, because any single senator can and will block conference unless such conference is specifically instructed to limit the conference to only the issue dealt with in the underlying bill.”
In taking such a stance, Rubio has now publicly opposed the procedural mechanism through which House GOP leadership and Senate Democratic leadership had planned to try to slip a backdoor amnesty through Congress and save the Senate bill.
Technically speaking, the House could pass any bill or group of bills related to immigration to move to conference. Several immigration bills are ready to be taken up on the House floor, having already made it through their respective committees. If such an immigration bill, or group of bills, passes the House, the Republican leadership could take the bill or group of bills to the Senate and open a conference committee. A conference committee is a formal negotiating body where the House and the Senate will each send key negotiators, or conferees, to argue with each other about both the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill and whatever bill or bills the House brings to the table.
As Breitbart News first reported in July, conservatives have expressed worry about such a committee. Endorsing the House’s piecemeal approach is not enough to stop the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill as congressional leaders in both parties and both chambers of Congress could slip the comprehensive Senate bill past everyone through procedural trickery.
Shortly after Breitbart News’ first story in July, several key congressional leaders pushing for the passage of the Senate bill confirmed conservatives’ suspicions that this procedural trickery was the game plan for pro-amnesty activists. Gang of Eight member Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) pleaded publicly with left-wing activists at the Center for American Progress to get the House to a conference committee. After that, another Gang of Eight member, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), publicly endorsed the House’s piecemeal immigration approach as part of an effort to try to get the Senate and House together at a conference committee on the Gang of Eight bill. Shortly after that, Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) said publicly that if the House and Senate were to come to a conference on the Gang of Eight bill, Senate Democrats would “win” in the conference.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who is working on a bill that would legalize the status of America’s at least 11 million illegal aliens, has publicly said he wants to go to conference with the Senate’s Gang of Eight bill, where he would try to “fix” it. Rubio’s decision to come out against conference puts him directly at odds with Ryan’s push.
Two other House members behind the immigration push, Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), are also now at odds with Rubio on immigration. Neither has come out publicly to answer where they stand on a conference committee with the Senate bill, despite being asked on multiple occasions.
Several House conservatives have publicly come out against a conference, including Reps. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) (R-AZ), Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) (R-TX), Steve Stockman (R-TX), Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) (R-FL), Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) (R-ID), and Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) (R-AZ), among others. On the Senate side, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) laid out their opposition to a conference committee on the Gang of Eight bill in an op-ed for Breitbart News, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has publicly announced opposition to conference and called on House Speaker John Boehner to do the same.
Rubio’s decision to come out against a conference committee on the Senate bill for which he served as a lead sponsor comes on the heels of him telling CNN on Friday that he thinks the House’s piecemeal approach is better than the Senate’s comprehensive approach. Rubio also told CNN he thinks it is acceptable for Congress to delay dealing with certain parts of immigration reform–presumably a pathway to citizenship or legalization–that do not have a “consensus” of support nationwide and in Washington.
“I also don’t think it’s realistic to believe that the House is just going to take up and pass whatever the Democrats in the Senate are demanding,” Rubio said on CNN’s New Day program on Friday morning. “And so I think that there are many things on immigration that we can agree on and I think we should move on those and make progress on those issues. And there are a handful that we have no consensus on in this country yet, and those issues may have to be delayed at some point until we can reach a consensus on how to approach them.”
“But my point – I still want to solve immigration,” he continued. “I think it’s an important issue for the country to deal with but I don’t think we should not do anything because we can’t do everything.”
When the CNN host asked Rubio if he would be open to the House’s so-called piecemeal approach to immigration, he responded: “Well that was my original position and continues to be my preferred option because I just think we’re going to get a better result that way, and I think we’re going to get a result that way. I think when you try to do anything big in Washington, it ends up running into headwinds.”
“Now, that’s the direction the Senate went, and I wanted to influence that process, so I got involved in it,” he explained. “But I continue to believe that a series of sequential, individual bills is the best way, the ideal way, to reform our immigration system.”
Rubio’s decision to publicly state he opposes a conference committee and supports a piecemeal approach to immigration instead of a “ruse” designed to get a comprehensive plan is a complete turnaround for him on immigration. He was at one time the lead voice of the Senate bill from the right, doing countless interviews hoping to sell the bill, a position for which Rubio paid dearly in political polls and support among the grassroots.
Rubio has tried to regain the grassroots support he lost by supporting Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) in his efforts against Obamacare in the recent budget battle, but he still has struggled in the polls; he finished with just 5 percent of the vote in the recent Family Research Council (FRC) Values Voter Summit straw poll, while in the just-released New Hampshire WMUR Granite State Poll, Rubio tied for seventh place with just 4 percent of GOP voters saying they would support him.
But his sudden turnaround on immigration could prove to be a saving grace for him among conservatives. As columnist Ann Coulter told Breitbart News in an exclusive interview, it is not too late for any political figure to turn around on amnesty–as long as they are able to stop it from happening in the process. If Rubio sticks to his newfound support for a true piecemeal approach, opposition to a conference committee, and support for delaying controversial parts of immigration reform like legalization, it could put him in a much more favorable position in 2016.