Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
December 18, 2014

Rubio Meeting Softens Immigration Skeptic’s View

At least one tea party skeptic of the immigration overhaul bill created by the “gang of eight” emerged from a private Tuesday meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio encouraged that the Florida Republican is committed to adjusting the legislation in a way that would make it palatable to conservatives.

Niger Innis, of TheTeaParty.net expressed deep reservations with the Senate bill before the gathering, which featured about 30 conservative supporters and skeptics of the comprehensive rewrite package. In a statement provided to this blog before the meeting, Innis referred to the bill as “more Schumer than Rubio,” in reference to New York Sen. Charles E. Schumer, one of four Democrats in the gang of eight. Innis also made a point of expressing suspicion about the legislation’s pathway to citizenship component, which he called “amnesty.”

But Wednesday morning, Innis sounded a slightly different tune after hearing Rubio’s remarks about where the legislation is headed and the changes he is committed to pushing. Although Innis did not change his mind about the group’s legislation in its current form — and made clear that activist members of TheTeaParty.net are unlikely to support the proposal — he signaled that his grass-roots organization is poised to back Rubio’s immigration effort if he can push the changes to the bill that he has said he wants.

Perhaps just as importantly, Rubio has not lost TheTeaParty.net’s trust as a conservative stalwart. “Sen. Rubio is a very impressive leader. He’s a rising star within the conservative movement and is very brave to take on an issue that is so important and somewhat controversial,” Innis told CQ Roll Call. “We feel confident that Sen. Rubio is going to continue to try and move this bill in the right direction — ideologically and literally. We feel that he is committed as a conservative to push this as far to the right as he possibly can.”

Rubio continues to push back against conservative critics of the Senate bill who have labeled it as amnesty for the approximately 11 million illegal-immigrant residents, while embracing the call for changes from the right, such as a desire for stronger border enforcement provisions.

Innis said Rubio has a tough task, pushing against a Senate that is controlled by the Democrats and members of the gang of eight, such as Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and John McCain, R-Ariz., who Innis believes are more likely to agree with the four Democrats than Rubio and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake, the other GOP member of the group. Innis said he would like TheTeaParty.net to serve as a conduit of communication between Rubio and conservative activists as the Floridian works to improve the immigration bill.

“We will give him access to explain details of the bill,” Innis said. “He’s got one difficult, heavy lift. We recognize that and we want to help him push this bill as far [right] as possible.”

  • Stanley

    There is no way that Schumer, Durbin et al will allow this amnesty bill to be moved in any meaningful way “to the right” — if “to the right” means enforcement and real border security BEFORE amnesty.

    Schumer and Obama have made it VERY clear they will accept nothing less than instant amnesty (under some type of “probationary legal status” with work permits etc. scheme) and then a full “path to citizenship” (i.e. path to more Democrat voters) with (mere) promises of enforcement (just like with the 1986 IRCA).

    This is the fundamental flaw with the Rubio/Schumer amnesty bill and the circle that Rubio cannot not square, and if he had integrity he would live up to the promises he made to Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin (enforcement/security BEFORE amnesty) and walk away.

    Thus, Innis should listen to his members, and most of the other grass roots conservative groups (Eagle Forum, other Tea Party groups, Heritage Foundation, National Review etc.) and oppose the Rubio/Schumer Gang of 8 amnesty bill.

    p.s. perhaps David Drucker would like to pose these questions/points to Rubio and Innis, rather than regurgitating secondary sources.

    • American

      You won’t get immigration reform without both enforcement and adjustment of status for those currently here illegally without criminal records. As each side on this issue doesn’t trust the other it will have to be done with both enforcement and legalization in place. Without the reform we will just continue as we are now.

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