Marco Rubio (Photo: Shark Tank Media)
The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee has approved the controversial 'Gang of Eight' immigration reform bill by a vote of 13-5. Arguably the most instrumental supporter and spokesman of the bill has been Florida Senator Marco Rubio, and it's fair to say that he's paid a steep political price among many of his ardent supporters, some even stating that they will no longer support him at all for backing an immigration bill they feel is simply "amnesty" for illegal immigrants.
Rubio contends that his bill is not "amnesty" and that he never has or would support a blanket amnesty for illegal immigrants. Rubio has gone as far as to call the current immigration system "de facto amnesty."
But there are many conservative critics who disagree with Rubio and believe that the bill itself is tantamount to "de facto amnesty" regardless of how tough the border security and enforcement measures text reads in the bill.
While the other co-authors of the bipartisan immigration reform bill do not have nearly as much to lose as Rubio, should this bill ultimately fail in any number of regards, Rubio has everything to lose.
Senators Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) have picked apart the provisions of the proposed legislation, and Sessions has pointed out the fact that the bill would indeed grant federal benefits for illegal immigrants who become eligible to legally work in the U.S. if the bill were to become law.
"One of the things we identified a year or two ago was that large numbers of [illegal immigrants] have become eligible immediately for the earned income tax credit. The average person who qualifies for earned income tax credits gets about $2,000 a year... It's actually a direct check from the United States government...
EITC is generally available to anyone that has a Social Security number... As these [registered provisional immigrants] are all established and get a Social Security number, they will qualify, it appears under the law, for earned income tax credit. I'm not sure the sponsors understood that, because they've insisted that RPI aliens will not receive any federal benefits under the bill. But [their legislation] would grant such benefits to millions and be a substantial burden on our country's finances..."-Senator Jeff Sessions ( Rubio's bill grants federal benefits to Illegals)
Rubio has aggressively tried to dispel this very notion that federal benefits would be granted to illegal immigrants while they are in a allowed to legally reside and work in the country.
With other conservative Republican 2016 presidential hopefuls paying close attention to the outcome of this immigration bill, Rubio's potential presidential candidacy could hinge on whether or not he heeds the advice of many prominent conservatives who are urging him to withdraw his support of the bill.
Other members of the U.S. Senate such as Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA), remember voting for a similar "amnesty" bill way back in 1986, and according to CBS, Grassley said that the 1986 bill, like Rubio's bill, "promised to crack down on illegal immigration, but said that it had failed to do so."
It is hard to grasp that a single 'Yea' or 'Nay' vote on a Senate bill could tremendously impact the political career of one of the most likeable politicians in recent history,but the sober truth for Rubio is that it likely will. For better or worse, Rubio's vote will cast him as either a supporter of amnesty for illegal immigrants or as a leader who tried to do the right thing for the country but was forced to drop his support for a bill that became too flawed to support.
Senator Marco Rubio's decision point has arrived. Will Rubio become part of the "Yes, we can" immigration reform contingency or will he reassert the "Yes, he can" posture he assumed on the cover of National Review that conservatives have grown to respect and admire?
This column was originally posted on The Shark Tank.