Who Wants Credit for Immigration Reform if It Passes

Immigration players stake out their positions as reform moves forward.

June 17, 2013— -- If an immigration bill in the Senate eventually becomes law, there will certainly be a lot of people looking to take credit -- or dole out blame, depending on your perspective.

You can put President Obama and Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Florida) and Ted Cruz (Texas) at the top of that list. Here's why:

1. The Backroom Dealer

President Obama supports the immigration reform bill in the Senate but he's largely let the group of Democrats and Republicans that wrote the legislation stand in the spotlight.

Behind the scenes, however, he's been working to influence the process, according to a New Yorker article by Ryan Lizza (quoted here). The article cites a senior Obama administration official:

"No decisions are being made without talking to us about it," the official said. "This does not fly if we're not O.K. with it."

See Also: Rubio Aide: Some American Workers 'Can't Cut It'

That Obama wants to guide the bill isn't shocking. What's more interesting is that the administration is now advertising its involvement in the dealmaking. It leaves the impression that the president wants credit for this bill when it's signed into law.

At least one person will be happy to give it to him:

2. The Antagonist

If immigration reform is supposed to be a way for Republicans to bridge the gulf to Hispanic voters, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) isn't buying it.

He's against a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a part of the bill that Democrats have repeatedly said they won't budge on.

"The biggest obstacle to passing common sense immigration reform is President Barack Obama," Cruz said in an interview with ABC News on June 10. "A path to citizenship is the most divisive aspect of this bill and the White House is insisting on it."

Cruz has shown support for other parts of the legislation, like tougher border security measures and increased high-skilled immigration, but his intractable position on citizenship basically means he won't support an immigration bill with a chance of passing.

That pits him against one of his GOP colleagues:

3. The Gambler

Of anyone involved in the immigration reform process, Marco Rubio has the most to gain or lose as the bill moves forward.

The Florida Republican is considered a potential presidential candidate, and he's fully aware of the demographic reality facing his party. It's unlikely that a Republican will win the White House without a better showing among Hispanic votes than what Mitt Romney mustered in 2012.

So Rubio is reaching out to the center on immigration. He supports a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, something that GOP hardliners like Cruz have equated with "amnesty" (which is supposed to be something bad).

But he wants to maintain his conservative credentials at the same time. As the bill has moved forward in the Senate, he's said it needs stronger border security provisions.

As I've mentioned before, tacking toward the center has made him a popular target for politicians on both sides of the political spectrum.

Rubio must see a successful immigration effort as a step on the way to more long-term political success. But the chance he's taking on a bill sets him up for political embarrassment, as we saw with recent comments one of his aides made about American workers.