Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has not yet unveiled a detailed immigration-reform bill, but he did sit down with the Wall Street Journal the other day to sketch out the blueprint of a plan he intends to unveil. In an interesting twist, the White House is delighted with Rubio's vision.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters yesterday that Rubio's proposals "bode well for a productive, bipartisan debate," and may very well signal "a change in the Republican approach to this issue."
Why would President Obama and his team be encouraged by a right-wing senator who badly bungled his own immigration push last summer? Because as Adam Serwer explained, Rubio is basically copying and pasting from the immigration-reform plan Obama presented nearly two years ago.
[C]onservative pundits have showered Rubio with praise. The Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin called Rubio's proposal "bold," and the Daily Caller's Matt Lewis writes that "although there is opportunity here, this is still an act of political courage." Rubio also drew approval from 2012 GOP vice-presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who wrote on Facebook that "I support the principles he's outlined."
Conservatives hailing Rubio may not realize how close to President Barack Obama he has moved on immigration, but opponents of reform, such as the Center for Immigration Studies' Mark Krikorian, certainly noticed. "There's nothing substantive in Rubio's proposal that wouldn't immediately be agreed to by President Obama," Krikorian says. "This is the Rubio-Obama immigration plan."
Krikorian added that Obama's plan is eerily similar to George W. Bush immigration reform proposal that conservatives killed in 2007, but therein lies the point: there's a mainstream consensus on what a sensible immigration policy should look like, and were it not for far-right Republicans, it'd sail through Congress and be signed into law with ease.
Even Marco Rubio now seems to understand this, and in the wake of the 2012 elections, he's moving further from his party's base and closer to the mainstream, where Obama's been waiting.
After all, what does the president have in mind? Among other things, a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers and more visas for highly skilled workers ready to come to the U.S.
And what does Rubio support? The exact same thing. Serwer added:
The centerpiece of Rubio's proposal -- his plan to handle the approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants who are already here -- is strikingly similar to the plan Obama described it in 2011. Rubio told the Journal that undocumented immigrants in the US would need clean records, and that they would have to "pay a fine, pay back taxes, maybe even do community service. They would have to prove they've been here for an extended period of time. They understand some English and are assimilated. Then most of them would get legal status and be allowed to stay in this country." Eventually, the Journal says, Rubio's proposal would allow undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship.
All of Rubio's immigration reform criteria -- fines, back taxes, proof of residence, background checks, and learning English -- are part of Obama's plan.
At a certain level, I care more about the policy than who gets credit for the ideas. If Rubio wants to take the president's plan, put a new name at the top, and convince the right it's a Republican-friendly version, so be it. Indeed, Rubio's contempt for Obama suggests the senator may want to maintain the fiction, at least publicly, that his plan is somehow distinct from the White House's.
But putting the Republican's posturing aside, the obvious overlap between the two similar approaches makes the odds of legislative success that much better.