FLAKE: Well, we're much closer with— labor and— business, agreeing on this guest worker plan. That doesn't mean we've crossed every I or dotted every T, or— or vice versa. We're— we've still got a ways to go— in terms of looking at the language and making sure that— it's everything we thought it would be. But we're closer, certainly.
CHUCK TODD: If there is a deal that you s— agree to with this— with— with this "Group of Eight," but you can't recruit more Republicans on your side, would you walk away?
SENATOR JEFF FLAKE: You know— , we're— we're committed to this if we can— get the language right. And— and I— I think that— we'll stick together— as a gang, and I hope that we can— pull some Republicans our way. I think a number of them are with us already. So I— I don't— I don't want to talk about walking away. I don't intend to do that.
CHUCK TODD: How important is Senator Rubio to this cause? He sort of is seen as the bridge to some of the more conservative members of the Senator conference. If he wasn't in this coalition—
SENATOR JEFF FLAKE: He—
CHUCK TODD:—would it hurt your— would it hurt your cause to get a large vote?
SENATOR JEFF FLAKE: You bet. He's extremely important. As Senator Schumer said, he's had great input, a lot of input— into the language already. He's making the point now that we need to go through regular order— which I certainly support. So he's extremely important to this effort.
Todd asked both Flake and Schumer about the Florida Senator's concerns because he sent out two press releases over the weekend reacting to the announced deal between labor and business groups. Rubio emphasized that this doesn't mean there's any deal in hand, and could everybody just slow down a little bit? From his release Sunday morning:
“I’m encouraged by reports of an agreement between business groups and unions on the issue of guest workers. However, reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature.
“We have made substantial progress, and I believe we will be able to agree on a legislative proposal that modernizes our legal immigration system, improves border security and enforcement and allows those here illegally to earn the chance to one day apply for permanent residency contingent upon certain triggers being met. However, that legislation will only be a starting point.
“We will need a healthy public debate that includes committee hearings and the opportunity for other senators to improve our legislation with their own amendments. Eight senators from seven states have worked on this bill to serve as a starting point for discussion about fixing our broken immigration system. But arriving at a final product will require it to be properly submitted for the American people’s consideration, through the other 92 senators from 43 states that weren’t part of this initial drafting process. In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret.”
Chuck Schumer said on MTP that he agrees with Rubio, saying nothing will get passed without an extensive debate in Congress:
SCHUMER: As Senator Rubio correctly says, we have said we will not come to final agreement till we look at all of the legislative language. And he's correctly pointing out that that language hasn't been fully drafted. There'll be little kerfuffles. But I don't think— any of us expect there to be problems.
CHUCK TODD: If you lost Senator Rubio in this "Gang of Eight," if he walked away from the convers— from the negotiations, would that— put— in the entire immigration bill in jeopardy?
SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: Well, first of all, I don't think he'll walk away. He's been an active and strong participant, he's had a lot of input into the bill. Obviously, his views are not the same as the other— seven of us. Every one of us has different views. But I expect that we're going to have agreement— among the eight—
CHUCK TODD: But you need it. If you don't have them, this bill— is suddenly in jeopardy.
SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: You know, I'm not even going to speculate about that. I talked to Marco yesterday— we had great conversations. And— he is protecting some of the things that he thinks are very important in the bill. But I don't think that'll stand in the way in any way of any final agreement.
CHUCK TODD: All right—
SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER: I think we're all on track.
On Friday Rubio sent a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy that expressed concern that "excessive haste" in pursuing comprehensive immigration reform legislation "is perhaps even more dangerous to the goals many of us share."
"We owe it to the American people to get immigration reform right this time, so that future Congresses and future generations do not face the broken system we see today. A rush to legislate, without fully considering all views and input from all senators, would be fatal to the effort of earning the public’s confidence."
Quick question: Who's rushing to anything? Before the networks had called the election for Barack Obama last November, GOP analysts were saying the party needed to make serious inroads with Hispanic voters, beginning by passing immigration reform, a point reiterated in the "autopsy" report that RNC Chair Reince Priebus released two weeks ago. When Congress convenes (after another week of vacation) next week, it will be exactly half a year since the GOP said they got the message on this bill.
No doubt the debate on the Senate floor will be extensive and amendments will be introduced on the proposed legislation, whenever it's completed. Then, if if it is passed in the Senate, it has to go through the much more conservative House of Representatives. An optimist might think that a vote there might happen in late spring or early summer.
Apparently only in Washington does this qualifiy as "excessive haste."