Congress’s top Democrat told the Spanish-language Univision network that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) ought to stop talking about his scaled-back DREAM Act and put his ideas to paper.
In an interview that aired Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) accused the freshman Republican of selling his proposal in a duplicitous manner. He said he’s open to supporting it, although he was cold to the idea of omitting the promise of citizenship to DREAMers.
“I’m glad that Marco is doing something. I think that’s significant,” Reid said. “But the problem is, right now there has not been a single word put on paper, not a word. And remember, in anything we do in life, the devil is in the details. So let’s see what Marco’s going to come up with. … If he has something better and it’s something that I think is going to be okay, I will be happy to support it. But let’s stop this nonsense of talking about it. He talks to one group this way, another group another way. Put it in writing.”
Asked whether he’d back a proposal that “does not include a path to citizenship,” Reid said, “No.” Then he explained that he’d consider backing any proposal that’s fair to DREAMers, who were brought to the U.S. as children and have since attended college or joined the military.
The context is an election-year push by Republicans to save face with Hispanic voters, who prefer President Obama to the likely GOP nominee Mitt Romney by a huge margin. During the primary, Romney called for the “self-deportation” of the likes of DREAMers. Rubio has acted as a sort of party liaison to the Hispanic community and is rumored to be a potential vice presidential candidate.
Rubio says his work-in-progress plan offers non-immigrant visas to some undocumented people but, unlike the existing DREAM Act, would exclude a special pathway to citizenship. Eligible DREAMers would have to apply for permanent status through the regular channels.
The Republican senator is angling to blame President Obama for its looming failure — Speaker John Boehner has signaled that it’s all but certain to fail in the House. Reid argued to Jorge Ramos on Univision’s Al Punto that Obama hasn’t been a perfect president, but it’s Republicans who have been hostile to immigration reform.
“I hope [Rubio] works with his Republicans,” Reid said. “He should start, perhaps, with the Speaker of the House of Representatives who, when asked about this question, just threw cold water on it. I don’t throw cold water on it. I do say, Marco, give us something in writing. I’ll be happy to look at it. I’ve been a big advocate for the DREAM Act.”
Last Thursday, Rubio accused the White House of actively undermining his vision of the DREAM Act so it can use the issue against Republicans in the election. “[T]he White House has been calling in DREAM Act advocates and asking them, almost ordering them, not to work with me on this issue,” Rubio told the Laura Ingraham radio show.
Reid said he may reintroduce the DREAM Act this Congress, after it failed to overcome a Republican filibuster in the Senate late 2010: “I’ve got 90 percent of my Democrats [on board] — I need a handful of Republicans to work with me on this.” That’s why, he added, “I’m begging Republicans” to come forward.
Sahil Kapur is a congressional reporter for TPM. He previously covered politics and public policy for numerous publications including The Guardian and The Huffington Post. He can be reached at sahil [at] talkingpointsmemo.com.