Sensing the wounds of betrayal beginning to fester among many within the conservative base -- his biggest fans and strongest advocates over the last three years -- Sen. Marco Rubio has personally penned a "Dear Friends" letter to try to assuage their concerns about both his intentions and the contents of the bill he helped craft. Rubio calls the immigration reform effort "a real trial" for him, expressing regret that many of his natural allies are furious with him for his role in the 'Gang of Eight.' The full letter is available HERE. A few excerpts, via NRO:
"Getting to this point has been very difficult,” he said. "To hear the worry, anxiety, and growing anger in the voices of so many people who helped me get elected to the Senate, who I agree with on virtually every other issue, has been a real trial for me. I know they love America, and they are deeply worried about the direction this administration and the political left are trying to take our country.” “I realize that in the end, many of my fellow conservatives will still not be able to support this reform. But I hope you will understand that I honestly believe it is the right thing for our country,” he added. “In my heart, and in my mind, I know that we must solve this problem once and for all, or it will only get worse. It will only get harder to solve.” Rubio said he would “continue to fight alongside” conservatives on other issues, such as reforming the tax code, balancing the budget, reducing regulations, and repealing Obamacare. “I will continue to work in the hopes of one day uniting behind a common conservative strategy on how to fix our broken immigration system once and for all,” he concluded.
Rubio delivered very similar remarks on the Senate floor yesterday afternoon. In case you missed it in an update to a previous post, here's the video:
Rubio spent several paragraphs enumerating and debunking myths about the bill that he evidently believes to be the source of much conservative consternation. Though his clarifications are welcome, I think he glosses over the more serious point -- perhaps strategically. False information and rumors aside, this bill would grant probational legal status to millions of illegal immigrants before any of the promised enforcement mechanisms are in place. Americans have been burned too many times by broken promises and empty rhetoric to trust the federal government to execute the task of securing the border competently and faithfully. The Obamacare trainwreck, plus the spring parade of scandals have further eroded Washington's credibility. But at the end of the day, many conservatives don't necessarily doubt that we'll eventually see thousands of new border agents, and 700 miles of fencing somewhere along the southern border, and new technology deployed to monitor illegal entry points, and some form of E-Verify, and a revamped entry-exit visa system.
What we're not convinced of is how effective those measures will be at reducing illegal immigration to a trickle, so that we won't have to return to "solving" this exact same problem in 20 years -- which is the ostensible objective of this whole enterprise. Recent CBO estimates indicating that the current legislation would modestly reduce -- but not even come close to stopping -- the flow of illegal immigration vindicated these concerns. So it's the 'legalization first' concept, coupled with the lack of genuine effectiveness metrics as triggers, that worries and offends so many people. As for conservative anger at Rubio, it's quite possible that "this too shall pass." Don't forget who Republicans nominated for president over the last two cycles; Rubio is more conservative than either of those gentlemen. And the idea of hounding Rubio out of the party is a fool's errand. Nevertheless, it's clear that the junior Senator from Florida has some real fence-mending to attend to, so to speak. This is an early effort at doing so, in advance of final passage tomorrow. I'll leave you with two questions: First, Rubio says he's pleased that the House will write its own immigration bill, even though that means they won't take up his own. Would he support an enforcement-first paradigm in a potential conference committee negotiation over reconciling the two chambers' versions? Second, via Allahpundit:
Without him applying the brakes on Chuck Schumer’s runaway amnesty train in the Gang of Eight, there would have been nothing left to stop an even more terrible bill from passing. Except for … the hundreds of Republicans in the House majority... Serious question: How would the Senate bill have ended up any different if Rubio had passed on this whole process and left it to the amnesty twins, McCain and Graham, to lead the GOP contingent?
Maybe it would have been significantly worse. It's impossible to say. All we can judge the bill on is what it is, not what it might have been.