After nearly five months of backroom talks, lawmakers crafting immigration reform bills in the House and Senate say they’ll release legislation next week. But as veteran immigration reformers like Sens. Chuck Schumer and Lindsay Graham danced their familiar routines on the Sunday talk shows this past weekend, the new kid on the scene, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., tried to come off as a cooling agent. In a letter to Senate Juditiary Committee chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Rubio warned against the “rush to legislate.”
“Reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature,” Rubio wrote.
Some have commented that Rubio is trying to build himself an exit strategy from the immigration reform process, to which he’s been integral thus far. That could be. While there’s little doubt the Florida Republican is committed to reforming immigration laws, skeptics say he’s even more committed to taking up residence at 1600 Pennsylvania come 2016. And to the extent he thinks the reform process will hinder that ambition by angering the right of the party, Rubio may be ready to bail.
Another possibility is that Rubio is just trying to position himself as the gatekeeper and as a leader, and he’s pressing the breaks any time it appears to the public that someone else is pressing the gas.
Rubio’s objections to the speed of the process don’t have a great deal of substance. He’s mainly said that he wants the bill to go through the normal committee process and in his letter on Sunday, he called for a series of hearings to discuss the bill. The truth is that was already the plan—leading members of the Senate have committed to starting the reform bill in the Judiciary Committee and moving it deliberatively to the floor.