It seems everyone who is talking about immigration is also talking about Senator Marco Rubio – and the fact that the Florida Republican has recently criticized parts of the immigration bill he helped draft, saying the current version needs to be changed for it to have a chance at passage.
Senator Rubio said today that the current bill’s border security measures have to be strengthened before enough conservatives support the bill to make it a law. “If the changes don’t happen, the bill can’t pass,” Rubio said to r reporters today. “We’ll keep working. We won’t abandon the effort. We’ll keep working to ensure the bill can pass.”
A Democrat familiar with the Senate negotiations says the Florida Republican is taking a big risk by criticizing the bill he co-authored.
“You don’t talk badly about your own children, do you? When you talk badly about your own bill, how do you expect conservative collegaues to vote for it?” says the Democrat.
If the immigration bill does not go through, says the Democrat, all fingers are going to point at the Florida Senator. “They’re going to hang it around his neck. And this can affect him if he wants to run in 2016 – he doesn’t just need conservatives if he wants to run for higher office, he also needs Latinos, who won’t be content with ‘I tried’ from Rubio – they want ‘I passed the bill,'” the Democrat explains.
But Rubio Press Secretary Alex Conant tells NBC Latino Senator Rubio has always acknowledged the Senate bill was a starting point – and the goal is achieving Republican support, and eventual passage of a law.
“One of the reasons why Senator Rubio was asked to join this effort was to help gain the support of fellow Republicans,” states Conant. “And what most of them are telling us is that they are willing to support the bill, if we can improve the border security measures in it – improvements to the bill that will not only help us pass this reform in the Senate, but also in the House,” says Conant.
“To simply line up behind a bill that has no chance of becoming law is a waste of time, and a disservice to our country,” adds Conant. Rubio said the same to reporters today. “The goal here is to reform our immigration laws. And that requires something that can pass the House, the Senate, and be signed by the President,” Rubio said.
The issue of border security promises to dominate much of the Senate debate on immigration next week.
Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn is planning to introduce a sweeping amendment to the immigration bill to replace the current border security provisions with more stringent measures. This is being met with swift criticism from immigration reform advocates like Frank Sharry, from the progressive organization America’s Voice, who is referring to Cornyn as “Dr. No.”
“While calling himself an immigration reformer, Senator Cornyn has always found a way to “get to no” on immigration,” says Sharry.
One of the questions is whether the Senate has 60 votes to pass an immigration bill. Senator Rubio said today there would not be enough votes for the bill to pass as it is currently written. But the Democratic aide says this is “crap” – the votes are there.
NBC News political producer and reporter Kasie Hunt contributed to this story.