fresh voices from the front lines of change







The immigration reform news of the day is that Sen. Marco Rubio's spokeperson told several news outlets that the senator does not support holding a House-Senate conference that would consider the Senate immigration bill for which, by the way, Rubio voted in support.

Rubio's justification is couched in tactics: that the House won't accept a "comprehensive" immigration reform bill, nor will conservative senators allow such a House-Senate conference take place if a comprehensive bill is being considered. Therefore, we should only proceed with "piecemeal" legislation that is acceptable to conservatives.

As if doing only a piece of a job is preferable than doing the whole job.

But that's not really want conservatives mean by "comprehensive." In conservative-speak, "comprehensive" means "includes pathway to citizenship."

For some reason, they don't want to make that very clear to voters.

Rubio's Hamlet shtick over providing citizenship to undocumented workers is not new. During the Senate debate, Rubio threatened to vote against his own bill, prompting Sen. Lindsey Graham introduce his head to his desk, and failed in his final attempt to shape the border sercurity component of the bill before eventually voting "Aye." As the conservative PowerLine blog summed up yesterday, this latest move amounts to a "flip-flop-flip-flop."

Which leads to my question: why should I care what Marco Rubio thinks?

We scrutinized Rubio's hemming and hawing the last time around on the presumption that he had the singular power to shape the legislation and attract conservative support.

But the final bill blew up that notion. He didn't hammer out the final compromise, he didn't bring any major conservative support and the bill passed the Senate anyway.

At the end of the day, he was not a significant factor. So what makes him one now?

Boehner can choose the bury the Senate bill without Rubio's help. Or he can choose to forge a compromise with other senators, just as Senate Democrats found other Senate Republicans with whom to negotiate before. He does not need to go through Rubio.

Because Rubio does not bring a posse. He speaks for himself only.

He desperately wanted it to be otherwise. But he tried to become the point person on immigration by playing so hard to get that he fell off his highwire.

He could have dusted himself off after his failed leadership during the Senate debate and played a role that is actually needed to get the bill passed: being a strong defender of the Senate bill who helps bat away disingenuous and false conservative complaints. Instead, he's abdicating leadership in favor of flips and flops.

That's his choice. But those sizing up the prospects of reform should not use Rubio as a bellweather of anything. He wasn't before and he isn't necessarily one now.

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