Are immigration reformers talking down chances so opponents will drop guard?

The aide recalls how Senate GOP Gang of Eight leader Marco Rubio often stressed the downside of his bill’s chances. Recalling a closed-door meeting in which Rubio discussed the bill with skeptical colleagues, the aide remembers, “Rubio said, Look, there’s no way the bill will pass as it is right now. The Democrats are going to lose about five of their own, and it just won’t pass. Rubio would go on Hannity and say the same thing — Oh, we’ve got so much work to do, we don’t have the votes.”

One result of that kind of talk was that conservatives who opposed reform didn’t see an active threat until the Gang of Eight bill was on the verge of passage. “The phone lines in Congress didn’t melt down until after Corker-Hoeven [the amendment that assured enough Republican support for passage], and everybody realized the countdown had begun,” the aide says.

Now, some Hill conservatives — maybe those of a particularly suspicious bent of mind — see something similar beginning. “When Ryan says things like it’s going to be tough to pass, I don’t see that as meaning Ryan and the $10 billion coalition that is trying to pass the bill is calling things off,” says the aide. “I think it’s saying to conservatives to leave us alone while we work on it.”

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