Despite being one of the chief architects of the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate in June, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio announced on Monday his preference to scale back reform efforts and focus instead on passing a series of minor bills encompassing reform's least-contested elements. Not included among them: a path to citizenship for the country's estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Per a report in Politico, Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said in an email, "We should not allow an inability to do everything to keep us from doing something," and that "the only approach that has a realistic chance of success is to focus on those aspects of reform on which there is consensus through a series of individual bills."
Rubio's new preference represents a major setback for supporters of immigration reform, many of whom had hoped the high-profile Republican's involvement would help secure the necessary votes to pass a comprehensive bill that would include a path to citizenship. Conservatives who consider such a path to be "amnesty" have long opposed comprehensive reform, preferring instead a piecemeal approach that avoids the legalization issue.
Rubio, who came into Congress as a favorite of the tea party movement, had been a pivotal Republican backer of an immigration overhaul and had been considered a key bridge to conservatives who could sell reform to skeptics. Although the Senate bill that Rubio helped write garnered 68 votes in June, House Republican leaders have declared it dead in their chamber and have instead advocated for a piecemeal approach that would reform U.S. immigration laws with a collection of individual bills.
The Florida senator had preferred the piecemeal method to immigration reform, Conant noted, but put that aside to craft a bipartisan solution in the Democratic-led Senate.
“Unlike many of the proponents of reform in the Democratic party, he did so despite strong opposition within his own party and at a significant and well documented political price,” the spokesman added.