Pick your poison

Sen. John Cornyn plans to introduce an amendment to the Schumer-Rubio immigration reform bill. Cornyn’s amendment reportedly would require higher thresholds of border control before the bill’s “trigger” kicks in allowing undocumented immigrants to move toward citizenship.

According to Politico, Marco Rubio has “praised” Cornyn’s approach, saying that it “will get this bill where it needs to be.” But Harry Reid begs to differ.

Reid says that Cornyn’s forthcoming amendment is a “poison pill.” By that, he means that his caucus would rather pass no immigration reform legislation than pass a bill that requires more the stringent enforcement Cornyn wants before the “trigger” kicks in.

Assuming that this really is Reid’s position, and not a feint intended to pave the way for a Toomey-Machin compromise, it seems to leave Sen. Rubio with two options. One option is to use Reid’s statement as his exit strategy.

Rubio could remind folks that he’s said all along he’s open to improvements in the bill and, in light of well-founded distrust of the government, believes that Cornyn’s proposal truly is required to deliver on the promise of border security. Since the Democrats won’t agree to it, he regretfully must part company with them.

The second option is to speak well of the Cornyn amendment (and even vote for it), but insist that, in light of our “broken system,” a bill without that amendment is better than no immigration reform at all. Rubio could add that the House must still pass a bill, and that he encourages House members to add tougher enforcement provisions, which he personally favors.

Neither option is a good one for Rubio. In the first scenario, he fails in his mission to make the Republican Party seem more Hispanic-friendly, while also failing fully to restore his reputation among anti-amnesty (i.e., most) conservatives.

In the second scenario, he diminishes his reputation even more among conservatives. Even conservatives who aren’t that hostile to amnesty will likely disapprove of Rubio giving in to Harry Reid and going along with legislation that does not include border security provisions that Rubio says “will get this bill to where it needs to be.”

If these are, in fact, Rubio’s two “poisons,” I predict he will drink the second. But I hope I’m wrong.

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