Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is expected announce his support for comprehensive immigration reform and a path to citizenship in a speech Tuesday morning.
On the heels of the Republican National Committee’s post-election autopsy report, which encouraged Republicans to support broad immigration law changes, Paul is expected to say that party members need to embrace reform or deal with being out of political power for decades.
“Republicans need to become parents of a new future with Latino voters or we will need to resign ourselves to permanent minority status,” Paul said according to excerpts from the speech. “The Republican Party has insisted for years that we stand for freedom and family values. I am most proud of my party when it stands for both.”
“Republicans need to give birth to a new attitude toward immigrants, an attitude that sees immigrants as assets not liabilities,” Paul said.
Paul’s scheduled speech would come a day after release of a major report by the Republican National Committee urging GOP support of comprehensive immigration reform as necessary to save the party. Like Hillary Clinton’s statement this week endorsing gay marriage, Paul’s announcement can also be seen as a preparatory move for the 2016 presidential race. The Kentucky senator sees where the parade is headed, and he wants to be seen as leading it, rather than bringing up the rear.
Four of Paul’s fellow Republican senators — John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Marco Rubio, a likely 2016 opponent — have been meeting in private for weeks with four Democratic counterparts, trying to negotiate an immigration package that is almost certain to include a path to citizenship. A deal is expected to be announced in early April, and it is likely to be approved in the Senate. Given the environment, it is hard to believe that GOP senators could successfully filibuster the bill.
The House is where things get interesting.
House Speaker John Boehner has been playing coy on the issue. Last month, when asked whether he would be willing to support a path to citizenship, Boehner replied, “How about a little foreplay first?”, which is an interesting way to put it. The speaker apparently wants to be wooed, and wooed he will be.
In the end, however, he will have little choice but to allow the measure to come to the House floor, where an awful lot of his fellow Republicans will speak and vote against it. For example, I would be surprised if any Georgia Republican votes in favor of the bill. This is, after all, a state where anti-immigrant sentiment is strong enough that the likes of Phil Kent can be appointed to oversee immigration enforcement.
The question is whether enough House Republicans — concerned about their own political futures, the future of their party or, let us hope, the future of their country — will end up joining House Democrats in voting to support the bill. I suspect that in the end a bare minimum will do so, and we’ll be able to put this behind us.
But for the party base, this is not going to be an easy one to swallow.
– Jay Bookman