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The "bombshell" of Ryan Lizza's New Yorker article on immigration echoed through the political world on Monday. Perhaps the most damaging quote from this article was the following by a Rubio aide:
‘There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it,’ a Rubio aide told me. ‘There shouldn’t be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can’t get it, can’t do it, don’t want to do it. And so you can’t obviously discuss that publicly.’Also damaging, as Hot Air notes, is Lizza's reporting about the White House's heavy hand in crafting the Gang of Eight bill.
It's clear that Rubio's office realizes the danger of these remarks; it immediately pushed back against them, alleging that Lizza took them out of context. So Lizza posted a bigger excerpt of the exchange on Twitter:
RL: Well their argument is, what, that they have American workers for these jobs, they don’t need this program.Does this context really improve the quote much?
Rubio Aide 1: Yeah. I mean, one of the problems you have with this, “Oh there’s American workers who are unemployed.” There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it. There shouldn’t be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can’t get it, can’t do it, don’t want to do it. And so you can’t obviously discuss that publicly because. . .
Rubio Aide 2: But the same is true for the high-skilled workers.
Rubio Aide 1: Yes, and the same is true across every sector, in government, in everything.
These revelations pose a few problems for the immigration bill. The statements by Rubio's aide comes precisely at a time when anxiety about the immigration bill's effects on the poor/unemployed is starting to rise. If the GOP really is going to become the party of economic opportunity for the broad middle, "American workers...can't cut it" seems a troublesome slogan.
Also, Lizza's report seems to suggest that this immigration bill is President Obama's bill. Lizza implies that the White House has veto power over many sections of the bill. Rubio and some other senators supportive of the Gang of Eight have been criticizing the administration's handling of the IRS, Benghazi, and other issues---only to be working hand in hand with the administration to establish what one official calls "one of the top five legislative accomplishments in the last twenty years." In terms of legislative accomplishment, it seems as though the president's team would view the Senate immigration bill as a perfect companion to Obamacare on the trophy shelf.
Also, this controversy moves the immigration debate from concerns about electioneering and process to the fate of the American worker.
FALLOUT: Mark Krikorian: "Survival of the Fittest: Vote GOP" not exactly a winning campaign slogan...Geoffrey Norman: a lot of people who can't cut it work on Capitol Hill....Conn Carroll: "Everyone in Washington knows personnel is policy. Rubio can no more distance himself from this aide’s statement than Obama can distance himself from the supposedly “rogue” IRS agents in Cincinnati."....Jonathan Chait: "The Rubio aide quote is not only a piece of shocking candor, but also the biggest single blunder the pro-reform coalition has committed so far. Party elites may nod along when they read it, but there’s a reason nobody in politics ever says anything like this."
BY THE WAY: Has big labor chosen to support the Gang of Eight bill rather than defend the dignity of workers? Messages to the AFL-CIO press team about the "can’t cut it" remarks got crickets in response.
ELSEWHERE ON THE HILL: David Drucker reports that Boehner is likely to apply the "Hastert rule" to immigration after all...
House Speaker John Boehner is not going to bring a comprehensive immigration-reform plan to the floor if a majority of Republicans don't support it, sources familiar with his plans said.
"No way in hell," is how several described the chances of the speaker acting on such a proposal without a majority of his majority behind him.
Boehner, R-Ohio, does not view immigration in the same vein as the fiscal cliff last December, when he backed a bill that protected most Americans from a tax increase even though less than half of the GOP lawmakers were with him, said multiple sources, who spoke anonymously to allow greater candor.
With economists warning that the deep cuts and higher taxes needed to avoid the fiscal cliff could devastate an already ailing economy, Boehner felt compelled to compromise with President Obama and allow taxes to rise on the wealthiest taxpayers. He feels no such urgency about immigration reform, lawmakers said.
In the aftermath of Lizza's article, the Speaker might be even more inclined to follow that rule. (Is the grumbling among some of the rank-and-file part of the reason for this switch?)
Big question: does this news make it easier for Senate GOP to support S. 744 or harder? Easier: It lets senators believe that some firewall still exists in the House. Harder: It says to uncertain senators, Do you want a hard vote for a bill that will never become law?
ON THE FLOOR: Setting up the pieces on the Senate floor on Monday. Reid praised S. 744; Sessions criticized. Look for a few votes on amendments on Tuesday afternoon (Thune's fence amendment likely to be one of them). The votes seem to have 60-vote thresholds....Keep an eye out for a CBO score on S. 744 on Tuesday....Also, Sen. Cruz proposes a voter-ID amendment...Late-breaking update: Byron York on a new "enforcement" amendment to be considered....
LOWERING EXPECTATIONS: Gang of 8 member Dick Durbin is now backtracking from the goal of 70 votes...
IN THE COMMENTARIAT: Andrew Sullivan previews the tactics the left will use even if the GOP passes mass legalization...health-care is part of the story....Rush continues to emphasize more populist themes....At National Review: the editors continue to lament "Rubio's folly" and Victor Davis Hanson considers some of the stakes of the immigration debate: "Indeed, the tragedy of illegal immigration is that it becomes the cornerstone for hundreds of agendas: those of the self-interested Mexican government, exploitative American employers, the new ethnic chauvinists, the upper middle classes who deem themselves lords of the manor, and, yes, the elite whose professions are as noble as their deeds are not....In the meantime, for those who profit both materially and psychologically from something that largely benefits the elite and hurts the mass, at least spare us the hypocritical aspersions and bottled pieties."
(Personal note: Thanks to Conn Carroll, Mickey Kaus, and Mark Krikorian, among others, for mentioning this newsletter on its launch.)
(Link to this issue here.)