He was on Fox News a few minutes ago as I’m writing this to tout the new Corker/Hoeven plan that Ed wrote about earlier. No video yet, but both Byron York and Elise Foley quote him similarly. Rubio’s spent the last few weeks searching for an amendment that will tighten the border but not tighten it so much that Democrats will walk away from the Gang of Eight bill. And now, it seems, he’s found it:
Rubio on Fox: 'This is dramatic expansion & improvement in border security that I hope will allow this legislation to have support it needs'
— Byron York (@ByronYork) June 20, 2013
Rubio on Fox News: "I think this amendment is a dramatic improvement on border security."
— Elise Foley (@elisefoley) June 20, 2013
The GOP gets lots more Border Patrol officers, high-tech surveillance equipment for watching the border, full implementation of E-Verify, and 700 miles of fencing that Congress already authorized seven years ago. What do Democrats get? It’s what they don’t get. Instead of the biometric entry/exit system that Republicans wanted to help crack down on visa overstays, we’ll have a lower-tech biographic system instead. And more importantly, the “triggers” for enforcement will be soft:
But — and this is big – the provision sought by conservatives such as John Cornyn, that 90 percent apprehension be achieved as a “hard trigger” is no longer in the deal as a precondition for citizenship. As the Times puts it: “Republicans agreed to make the 90 percent figure a goal rather than a requirement.” The key is that additional Republicans beyond the gang of eight — such as Bob Corker and John Hoeven — appear prepared to accept this.
Leading immigration advocate Frank Sharry, who was briefed on the emerging deal, tells me Dems successfully beat back Republican demands for inclusion of the 90 percent “hard trigger.” And so Sharry’s group, America’s Voice, can support the deal, albeit reluctantly.
“The deal is ridiculous from a policy point of view — it’s excessive and wasteful,” Sharry tells me. “But from a political point of view, if it brings 10 or 11 Senate Republican votes, we’ll probably will be able to live with it.” Sharry says this is because the current triggers in the emerging compromise are “doable and achievable.”
Democrats still get probationary legalization for illegals right away. That’s their core demand because, once some form of legalization is granted, political pressure will inevitably build to grant them full citizenship regardless of the state of the border. The only real leverage border hawks have in getting the left to follow through on the bill’s enforcement provisions is to demand that any form of legalization be suspended until security targets are met. Corker/Hoeven doesn’t require that; in fact, it apparently relaxes the requirements for the second stage of the legalization process too, i.e. the path to citizenship, by not absolutely requiring 90 percent apprehension before illegals start gaining eligibility for green cards. That’s the sort of compromise Rubio’s been looking for — something that improves border security on paper but doesn’t apply too much pressure to the other side to make that security a reality. He prefers to see a weak bill pass than to stand on principle for true border-security triggers. Remember that the next time you hear him say that he’s doing this because it’s good policy, not good politics.
A few random thoughts. One: This is all about gaining Republican votes, not building a well-crafted bill. The effect on border security of adding 20,000 more Border Patrol agents is, as far as I know, a total question mark. (With more guest workers allowed in under the bill and a comparatively weak system for detecting visa overstays, more border agents might not reduce the number of illegals in the U.S. dramatically.) We could gain some idea by holding hearings, but neither party in the pro-amnesty camp gives a wet fart about the actual policy effects here. The security measures in Corker/Hoeven are designed purely to make the bill look tougher so that wary Senate Republicans feel safer voting yes. It’s already working. Two: Needless to say, the CBO score that everyone was oohing and aahing over two days ago will have to be completely redone. The bill will obviously cost more now with tens of thousands of BP officers on the federal payroll. Their presence on the border will presumably reduce the forecast for new illegal immigration by some (smallish) degree, which means all the other economic effects in the bill will change. The whole point of the CBO study was that illegals will help reduce the deficit on balance (in the near term) because they’ll bring economic growth to America. Does that still hold true if there are fewer illegals coming across the border over the next 10 years?
Three: If — if — you trust House Republicans to demand border security before any form of legalization, then having the Senate pass this thing with Republican support isn’t a terrible outcome. The consolation prize for Democrats if the bill fails is demagoging the GOP for being anti-Latino, which might help them with turnout in the midterms next year. If 20 Senate Republicans vote for the Gang of Eight bill, that argument is harder to make. Suddenly it becomes a message about House Republicans specifically, and House Republicans have much less to fear in their small red districts than GOP senators do. The big question mark right now isn’t how Corker/Hoeven plays in the Senate, it’s how it plays in the House. Will GOPers who’ve been talking tough lately suddenly go soft?
Exit question via Conn Carroll: CBO estimated that, of the estimated 11.5 million illegals currently in the U.S., only eight million or so would qualify for the initial probationary legalization under the Gang’s bill. What happens to the other 3.5 million?