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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) has introduced a new set of “triggers” designed to blow up the comprehensive immigration reform compromise forged by the Gang of Eight in the Senate. The senior’s senator’s amendment — which has only been released in draft form — would require that the border be declared “secure” before an actual “path to citizenship” begins, a deal-breaker for Senate Democrats.

This follows an announcement from key senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) that the bill he helped shape doesn’t have 60 votes — including his own — and Rep. Raul Labrador’s (R-WY) departure from a group of House Members attempting to negotiate its own immigration deal.

Republicans have been telling themselves they need to pass immigration reform since Mitt Romney did worse with Latino voters than John McCain, who did worse than George W. Bush. It was one of the only direct policy suggestions in the GOP “autopsy” commissioned by the Republican National Committee. Conservative talkers are declaring the whole thing “already dead.”

Rubio has been a steadfast leader in trying to sell the compromise to the right and has largely avoided the huge backlash that crushed reform in 2007, thanks — in part — to his base’s distraction with the Obama “scandals.”

But Cornyn may have successfully put Rubio in a “box,” Frank Sharry of the pro-reform group America’s Voice told The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent. If Rubio doesn’t move to the right, he could lose credibility with conservatives, no matter how many times and in how many ways he says, “Repeal Obamacare!” If he does, reform is likely dead.

And even if Cornyn’s amendment passes, it’s likely unenforceable, meaning it’s designed just to short-circuit the process.

Some have been predicting that Rubio would eventually walk away from his own compromise, rather than destroy his career. John McCain was about to lead a reform effort that he ultimately turned against in order to secure the GOP presidential nomination. But Rubio isn’t trying to become the next John McCain.

I speculated in April that the GOP needs reform more than Rubio does — but that was weeks ago, when the bill was still amorphous. As much as the junior senator from Florida might like to insist that changes need to be made, the bill that Senator Harry Reid wants to bring to the floor of the Senate next week has Rubio’s name all over it.

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