The Conficting Views Of Marco Rubio and Trey Gowdy Makes For Strange Bedfellows

marco ruibio flickr cc
The endorsement by South Carolina Republican Representative Trey Gowdy of Florida Senator Marco Rubio in the GOP presidential nomination contest offers a contrast in opposing positions. Gowdy has espoused positions that have been repudiated by Rubio and it will be interesting to see how the two men reconcile their differences as they campaign together.

In Iowa, the Rubio campaign has been attacking his rival for the nomination, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, as weak on national security. This attack is based on Cruz’s support for the USA Freedom Act which curtailed the ability of the NSA to collect phone call meta data. Never mind that this bill passed Congress with a veto proof majority, the Rubio campaign has gone so far as to hint that Cruz’s support of this bill was impeding the ability of law enforcement to investigate the San Bernardino shootings. Nonsense to be sure and a position that is well outside the mainstream of the nation and the GOP. In fact, Trey Gowdy also voted in favor of the USA Freedom Act. Will Rubio moderate his attack in Cruz over this? Or will he continue campaigning with someone whom he has labeled as weak on national security and possibly complicit in hamstringing law enforcement?

Immigration is another fault line. Back when comprehensive immigration reform was the big thing, Trey Gowdy partnered with Illinois Democrat Luis Gutierrez to craft an alternative to the Senate Gang of Eight amnesty bill. While Gowdy’s bill did not advocate a “path to citizenship” for all illegals, he did advocate for accelerated citizenship for all illegals who desired to remain in the US permanently. From Gowdy’s interview on PBS NewsHour on July 9, 2013:

You know, I always smile when I hear, immediate citizenship for 11 million aspiring undocumented immigrants. Surely to goodness, no one, not even Chuck Schumer, thinks that all 11 million desire citizenship. Polls indicate that as many as 40 percent would prefer just to have a legal working status, as opposed to citizenship.

Surely to goodness [mc_name name=’Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’S000148′ ] doesn’t think all 11 million can pass a background check. There’s not any group of 11 million in the United States, immigrant or otherwise, who can pass — who all can pass a background check.

So what I prefer to do is look at the 11 million in natural subgroups. You have what are called the DREAM children. I would think most people would advocate for an accelerated path to citizenship for children who, through no fault of their own, were brought here at an early age. I would have a shortened path to citizenship for those who serve in our armed services.

And then you can have a sliding scale based on your years in the country and contributions you made to society. Again, I don’t know anyone who would advocate that a person from Ecuador who has been here for 20 years and made serious contributions to our society should be on the same path to citizenship as someone from Ecuador who’s been here for 20 days.

So this notion that it’s 11 million all at once before you do anything else is so overtly political and so transparently political, surely to goodness [mc_name name=’Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’S000148′ ] doesn’t really believe that. And if he does, then he’s right. There won’t be a bill.

On the merits, I don’t think Gowdy’s idea is all that bad but I’m not going to analyze its merits or flaws. The fact is that Gowdy’s bill was to the right of the Gang of Eight bill Rubio helped craft in the Senate. Since then, Rubio has had an epiphany on immigration brought on in part by the public reaction to the Gang of Eight bill and in part by the quantum shift in the Overton Window in the immigration debate created by Donald Trump. He has repudiated the Gang of Eight bill and adopted a new stance… one very much like the “poison pill” amendment proposed by Ted Cruz… that is very much in conflict with Gowdy’s proposal.

On Rubio’s campaign website, under the section “Immigration” the word “citizenship” literally does not appear. This is how Rubio says he will handle the issue of illegal aliens:

Once both of these reforms have been passed [ed note: these would be border security/E-verify and a reform of our immigration policy in favor of a merit-based system], then I believe the conditions will be in place to address the most politically sensitive aspect of immigration reform: what to do with more than twelve million people currently here illegally.

On the one hand, calls to grant amnesty to twelve million people are unrealistic and quite frankly irresponsible. On the other hand, not a single opponent of the Senate bill I helped author proposed that we try to round up and deport twelve million human beings. So how do we deal with this dilemma? I believe that if the enforcement measures are in place, there exists a path forward that would obtain a significant majority in Congress and the support of a majority of Americans across the political spectrum. It consists of three parts.

First, those here illegally must come forward and be registered. If they have committed serious crimes or have not been here long enough, they will have to leave. With the new E-Verify system in place, they are going to find it difficult to find a job in any case.

Second, those who qualify would be allowed to apply for a temporary nonimmigrant visa. To obtain it they will have to pay an application fee and a fine, undergo a background check and learn English. Once they receive this work permit, they would be allowed to work legally and travel. To keep it, they will have to pay taxes. They would not qualify for government programs like Obamacare, welfare or food stamps. And if they commit a crime while in this status, they would lose their permit.

Third and finally, those who qualify for a nonimmigrant visa will have to remain in this status for at least a decade. After that, they would be allowed to apply for permanent residency if they so choose. Many who qualify for this status will choose to remain in it indefinitely. But those who choose to seek permanent residency would have to do it the way anyone else would, not through any special pathway.

Under Rubio’s plan there is no path to citizenship other than the current path. Has Gowdy repudiated his previous view, and his deal with Gutierrez, to bring his immigration views in line with Rubio’s? Or will they just not discuss immigration in South Carolina?

This is going to happen with increasing frequency in the campaign as he acquires more endorsements of the kind that will be useful to him and finds his past positions, his new positions, and his campaign-driven opportunism come into conflict with those of his supporters.