Border Security a Bargaining Chip in Senate CIR Debate10 Jun 2013
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), leading Democrat on the Senate’s Gang of Eight – the bipartisan negotiating group that’s shepherding comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) through the upper chamber of Congress – expects the full Senate to begin debating the measure on June 10th, and pass it by July 4th. According to Salon.com, Schumer told this to David Gregory of NBC’s Meet the Press, adding that he hoped to get up to 70 votes – including many Republicans – to pass CIR by a wide margin. [See Schumer Predicts Immigration Reform Will Pass by July 4, by Katie McDonough, Salon.com, 02.Jun.2013.]
Obviously, this is easier said than done. The problem is, to reach 70 votes, the Senate Gang of Eight will need to attract more Republican support, which in turn could require major changes in the bill: even stricter border control measures than the Draconian provisions of the original bill, which already sets stringent security goals that must be met before a path to citizenship could be implemented. Why tighten the screws even further? As Politico.com explains:
“With Congress back this week to work on the [CIR] measure, Senate negotiators want to pick up as many as two dozen Republican votes in a show of force that compels the House to act. But the result has to be much stricter than the current version of the bill to give it any hope of passing there either. They’ve got to do it without alienating the vast majority of Senate Democrats who like the bill as it is.” [See Immigration Reform Deal Hangs on Border Security, by Carrie Budoff Brown and Seung Min Kim, Politico.com, 03.Jun.2013.]
According to Politico.com, the leading Republican on the Senate’s Gang of Eight – Marco Rubio (R-FL) – has emerged as a kingmaker in the CIR fight, the one who could deliver GOP votes, provided he gives them something in return:
“Rubio has often gotten his way in the Gang of Eight deliberations. Well aware that his continued involvement is critical to the cause of bipartisan immigration reform, the group has made a series of concessions that give him rhetorical, if not substantive wins. He wanted a cut-off date that prevented recent undocumented immigrants from legalizing, and got it… He was ‘disappointed’ when the [Senate Judiciary] committee rejected a stronger system for tracking visa holders, and the panel returned several days later to pass a fix that satisfied him. Border security’s next on his list.”
This is not to say that Rubio can do as he pleases. He’s actually in a very delicate position, having pinned his future political aspirations – a run for the White House – on his success in mending fences with Latino voters. He needs CIR to work, and to that end, must strike a balance that both sides can live with. If the border triggers become too onerous, the path to citizenship becomes an empty promise, a dream deferred to some utopian future when the border is hermetically sealed and illegal immigration a distant memory. Part of Rubio’s job surely will be to remind his colleagues that the future of the GOP is at stake: if they push too hard and CIR collapses, it could cost them the White House next time around.
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