'Gang of Eight' Senators: Immigration Reform Hanging by a Thread

Thursday, 08 May 2014 11:28 AM

By Drew MacKenzie

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The chances of President Barack Obama signing a major immigration reform bill grow dimmer by the day.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and Democrat Sen. Charles Schumer, who constructed immigration legislation in a bipartisan coalition called the Gang of Eight, both sound pessimistic about the possibility of passing such a package before Obama departs office, Politico reported.

And GOP Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a libertarian-leaning potential 2016 presidential contender, cast even more doubt on Congress giving the green-light to a complete new set of immigration regulations — and said it may be permanently doomed.

"Comprehensive reform, if it means tackling everything at once, I think is unlikely to pass — ever," Paul said, according to Politico. "'Comprehensive' means Democrats get everything they want."

Rubio angered conservatives in his party last year when he touted the bipartisan immigration bill that easily passed the Senate. It's since been held up by House Republicans opposing any measure that contains a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants.

Now the Florida senator, who's also a possible presidential candidate, appears unlikely to want to fight for immigration reform after the November elections, Politico said.

"A comprehensive, single piece of legislation on any topic, but especially on immigration, is going to be very difficult to achieve," Rubio told Politico. "We keep talking about the same issue now for 15 years, and everybody is doing this all-or-nothing approach. And all-or-nothing is going to leave you with nothing."

He may have been influenced by the fact that more than 70 percent of Hispanic voters backed Obama in the 2012 general election, leading to increasing fears by conservatives that illegal immigrants-turned-citizens would vote for Democrats.

Introducing an immigration bill before the November elections is likely to face strong opposition in the House, and then in the next two years it will be mired in partisan politicking as the race for the White House begins, Politico reported.

"I think if it's not done this year, it's going to be next to impossible to do it next year," said Schumer, a New York Democrat, according to Politico. "By early next year, the Republican primary season will be in full flower. And that moves everybody to the right."

Florida GOP Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart has been pushing an immigration overhaul in the House. But he also believes that unless a bill is passed in the next couple of months it won't become law in Obama's presidency.

"I'm very much convinced that if it doesn't happen this year — and this year really means before the August break — that it doesn't happen," said Diaz-Balart, according to Politico. "Because let me tell you what happens when the president acts [on deportations], which he is going to: All Cain breaks loose."

He was referring to Obama's likely support of plans to slow down deportations of undocumented immigrants, including tens of thousands of illegals who have little or no criminal records but have committed repeated immigration violations.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, another potential GOP presidential contender, was heavily criticized by conservatives recently when he appeared to tout immigration reform in some form while declaring that immigrants who live in the United States illegally are committing an "act of love" for their families.

Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, who represents the state with the second-most Hispanic population in the nation, said a major immigration overhaul is not workable, but suggested he would like to see a piecemeal package as has been proposed by more moderate Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner.

"I think what is [workable] is to try to find areas where there's consensus in a series of smaller bills — so I think it's important we make as much progress as we can," said Cornyn, according to Politico.

"But in order to do immigration reform, we don't have to do what the president and the Democrats want, which is a pathway to citizenship — we clearly do not have to do that."

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