- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday that there aren’t 60 votes to pass the immigration bill he wrote and that the Senate will have to embrace even stiffer enforcement in order to win voters’ confidence and sway lawmakers reluctant to repeat the mistakes of the 1986 amnesty.

The Florida Republican’s acknowledgement comes as both sides of the debate are preparing for the bill to hit the Senate floor next week. After weeks of discontent simmering beneath the surface, conservatives and liberals have begun to publicly take shots at the bill, leaving immigrant rights groups to circle the wagons ahead of what’s expected to be a bruising floor fight.

“In essence, what people say to us is, ‘We know we have to reform the legal immigration system. We know we have to deal with the 11 million people that are here illegally, but we are only willing to do that if we can make sure that this never, ever, happens again,’” Mr. Rubio said Tuesday on “Fox and Friends.”

Asked directly whether the proposal that the immigration bill that recently passed the Senate Judiciary Committee has the votes to pass the Senate, Mr. Rubio said, “No.”

Immigrant rights groups questioned whether Mr. Rubio was trying to scuttle the deal he negotiated with seven other senators — three Republicans and four Democrats — that would give quick legal status to illegal immigrants but withhold the full pathway to citizenship until after some steps are taking on enforcement.

Cristina Jimenez, an official with United We Dream, a group of young illegal immigrants who were granted stays of deportation by President Obama, said Mr. Rubio is “moving the goalposts” on a final immigration bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said he will push the bill ahead no matter what, and said it will be up to the GOP to decide whether they want something to pass.

“Ninety percent or more of Democrats are going to vote to move forward on immigration. We want this bill passed. The system’s broken and needs to be fixed,” he said.

Preparing to debate

Republicans already have signaled they won’t filibuster bringing the bill to the floor, which will give Mr. Rubio a chance to offer amendments to try to improve immigration enforcement.

Mr. Rubio said he thought even Democrats would concede they lack the votes to pass the bill, and in fact that’s the case. Late last month, Sen. Robert Menendez, another of the Gang of Eight senators who wrote the bill along with Mr. Rubio, said they lacked enough support right now.

“We don’t currently have 60 votes identified in the Senate,” the New Jersey Democrat told Univision. “We need to add more votes on the floor.”

The bill’s authors had hoped to clear not just the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster, but to get 70 or more votes, which they hoped would give their bill momentum and convince wavering House lawmakers to take up the issue.

In his interview with Univision, a Spanish-language network, Mr. Menendez called for viewers to lobby their lawmakers to support the bill.

In the two months since senators unveiled their immigration bill, supporters have had momentum on their side, while the opposition had been relegated to a slim but vocal minority. That momentum pushed the bill through the Senate Judiciary Committee on a 13-5 vote, with three Republicans joining all 10 Democrats on the panel in support.

But with a week to go until the full floor debate, opposition has begun to increase, particularly on the left, where advocates warned that American workers could suffer from the bill’s provisions allowing future foreign workers to come into the country.

“Increasing immigration levels through amnesty and new visa programs, particularly at the low-skilled level, will flood the labor market with millions more people, leading to higher unemployment, more poverty, and a lower standard of living for many in the black community,” said Frank Morris, a leader of the Black American Leadership Alliance and a former executive director of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent who caucuses with Democrats, took to the Senate floor Tuesday to say that while he backs legalizing illegal immigrants, he fears that skilled-worker visas could triple and the influx of blue-collar foreign workers could rise eightfold under the bill.

“At a time when the youth unemployment rate is more than 16 percent and the teen unemployment rate is over 25 percent, many of the jobs that used to be done by young Americans are now being performed by temporary guest workers,” the senator said.

Meanwhile, conservatives have begun to poke at flaws they see in the bill.

Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, announced Tuesday that he will offer an amendment that would require Congress to vote every year to certify whether the border was getting more secure — taking that evaluation out of the hands of the administration.

Under what he called his “Trust but Verify” amendment, if Congress deems the border not secure then much of the bill would be halted.

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