Democrats must regain control of the immigration debate

During the first stages of negotiations for an immigration reform bill, Senator Marco Rubio showed his leadership as part of the Gang of Eight. However, that appears to no longer be the case. Rubio has joined voices in his party that are attempting to derail the reform by demanding border security that is beyond the government’s capabilities.

With an already $6.5 billion increase in border security spending, there is no rational reason to undermine negotiations. But that is what Rubio is doing to supposedly make the overhaul more palatable to his colleagues that are more interested in their political agendas then a fair policy resolution.

The Florida senator has also signaled that he will abandon the bipartisan work that has already been done unless there are other “improvements.”

Part of the problem is that extremists in his party are attacking him. But another issue is that Democrats – President Obama included– and Republican allies need to retake the reins on the reform debate.

This is especially urgent considering that there are questions around whether there are enough votes in the Senate to pass a filibuster-proof bill. While Rubio and Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) say the bill doesn’t have 60 votes, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) seems to think that 60 votes are in reach.

It is important for the Senate to get a voting majority –60– not only to prevent a filibuster but to send a strong example to the House of Representatives and the nation.

The other scenario could be spell disaster for millions of families. If Senate Republicans are allowed to continue politicizing the bill and risk the united front that has existed until now, that may be all the cue House Republicans need to take control of the negotiations and decide the future of the reform. And that’s not good news for anyone.