Senate kills Grassley's border-security amendment -- with all four Republican "Gang of Eight" members in support

Grassley’s amendment was dead on arrival in the Judiciary Committee and it was dead on arrival on the floor of the Senate today. Why? Because it did the one thing Republican border hawks Must Not Do as part of this grand, glorious compromise on immigration: It demanded that the border be effectively secured before any form of legalization, including first-stage probationary legalization, is granted to illegals. That would be a true enforcement “trigger” for amnesty, something that would warrant a second look at the bill. But of course, Democrats will never, ever agree to it; they have no more faith in DHS efficiently securing the border than you do, and thus there’s no way they’re going to make legalization contingent upon it. That’s why even Rubio, since the very beginning of this fiasco, has insisted that probationary legalization come before border security. The bill would be dead if he didn’t make that concession, and he’d rather have a terrible bill that betrays his phony promises of “security first” than have no bill at all.

That’s also why he, McCain, Graham, and Flake — the four GOP members of the Gang of Eight — all voted yes on Reid’s motion to table Grassley’s amendment, along with devout RINO Lisa Murkowski. They were the only Republican votes that Reid got, and as it turns out, he didn’t need a single one of them. A motion to table requires only 51 votes to pass and Reid had 52 Democrats on his side. The Republican “Gang” members conceivably could have voted no to try to show conservatives that they were striking a blow for tighter border security, even though they knew their votes would mean nothing and that Grassley’s amendment would fail anyway. They didn’t, because the Gang’s vowed to stick together on tough votes as a show of solidarity in the name of preserving the horrible “compromise” they’ve struck. They’re now past the point, it seems, of even making a pretense of border enforcement for the benefit of angry righties. There’s something to be said for honesty, I guess.

Reid’s move infuriated opponents of the bill, who said their right to keep talking while they worked to build a coalition for their proposal had been stripped away without fair warning.

“This so-called open and fair process is a farce,” the top Judiciary Committee Republican, Charles E. Grassley, called out just before the roll call. “This is a very provocative act.”…

For Reid, the power to call for tabling motions gives him additional leverage to move the debate along at a relatively brisk pace — and with solid odds of keeping the bill to his liking. He can make ideas he views as poison pills go away with 51 votes, while the other side will need 60 votes to add language viewed as killer amendments by the Obama administration, the gang of eight and the coalition of business and labor groups pushing the measure.

Rubio will, I’m guessing, defend his vote to table Grassley’s amendment in two ways. One: He’ll try to pander to conservatives by driving a hard bargain on other hot-button stuff to distract them from the fact that he caved on allowing legalization before border security. His last pander was to demand stricter English-language requirements for illegals; today’s pander is to threaten Democrats that he’ll walk away from the bill if Pat Leahy’s amendment granting rights to the spouses of gay illegals passes. The fact that he’s willing to make a lame, boutique issue like that a dealbreaker but not the fact that Democrats refuse to secure the border before granting illegals probationary legalization tells you exactly how seriously he’s taking this bill from a policy standpoint. It’s an insult to serious border hawks, but as DrewM says, it’ll help Rubio with social cons in Iowa in 2016. And that’s what really matters, Rubio’s endless pronouncements that he’s only doing this because it’s the “right thing to do” notwithstanding.

Two: He’ll end up either backing Cornyn’s amendment demanding tighter border security before the second stage of legalization (the green-card process) or, if Democrats give him a firm no on that, he’ll cave on that too and then try to put together an even weaker border amendment of his own as a substitute. Sounds like that’s what’s in motion now, with Rubio working on a compromise while our old friend McCain tries to kill Cornyn’s bill before it even gets rolling:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) is beginning to speak out forcefully against the Cornyn language, bombarding the Texas Republican with critical comments from the Senate floor. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is lobbying other Republicans on potential compromises. And Rubio, although he said Wednesday that the Cornyn plan “dramatically improves the bill,” is working on a package that others in the Gang of Eight hope could emerge as an alternative…

Rubio, in an interview with POLITICO this week, would not describe his work with Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and others as an “alternative” to the Cornyn plan.

“We certainly have ideas, and we’re sharing them with people, but if others want to take the lead on securing the border, that’s good,” Rubio said. “We’re in a game of addition. … The border security elements of the bill will have to be improved. The only issue is what is going to do that.”

Cornyn’s bill is better than the status quo but see Mickey Kaus for why it too is basically a fudge on real border security, beginning with the fact that it signs on to the Gang’s “legalization before security” scheme rather than Grassley’s “security first” proposal. And so now we wait: Will Democrats cave, allowing Cornyn’s ineffective but salable-to-conservatives border amendment into the bill? Or will they muscle Rubio into quitting on Cornyn and offering something that’s even more watered down? The fate of … nothing, really, depends on the answer.