Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) predicted Tuesday that Jeb Bush would ultimately tolerate a path to citizenship despite the former Florida governor’s surprise reversal of his past support for the policy.
Comments Bush made on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Tuesday suggested “that he could support a plan that has a path so long as it doesn’t give favoritism to those who violated the law — and that’s exactly what we’re working on,” Rubio told reporters in the Capitol.
In that that appearance, Bush suggested he’d at least consider a path to citizenship that doesn’t encourage further illegal immigration. “I don’t see how you do it, but I’m not smart enough to figure out every aspect of a really complex law,” Bush said.
That Rubio now must convince Bush to swing left on immigration represents an ironic role reversal for the two Florida politicians. Just a few months ago, it was Rubio who publicly opposed a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and Bush who explicitly favored the idea.
“I thought about that issue a lot and [went] back and forth on it before I signed on to my principles and I just concluded that it’s not good for the country in the long term to have millions and millions of people who are forever prohibited from becoming citizens,” Rubio told reporters on his way to a Senate vote. “That hasn’t worked out well for Europe.”
Responding to a question from TPM, Rubio said he did not think Bush’s surprise move would make it harder to convince conservatives to accept an eventual path to citizenship.
“I don’t think so — we have what we have,” Rubio said.
But Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), another member of the bipartisan Senate group working on a bill, expressed serious concern Tuesday about Bush’s rightward turn — especially given his prominent reputation as an immigration reformer.
“He has been a great voice on immigration, he’s been a good governor who understands the Hispanic community,” Graham told reporters. “I just think this proposal caught me off guard and it undercuts what we’re trying to do. I mean I can assure you the Hispanic community has always assumed that for the tradeoffs I’m seeking there will be a pathway to citizenship.”
Sahil Kapur contributed to this report.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.