Ted Cruz is finding out that he’s a little vulnerable when it comes to ideological purity on immigration. He found that out Thursday by playing a holier-than-thou card against Marco Rubio. When Sen. Cruz tried differentiating himself from Sen. Rubio on immigration, Sen. Rubio was ready.
First, Sen. Cruz emphatically said that he was the only GOP presidential candidate on stage who hadn’t changed his position on amnesty. Sen. Cruz’s holier-than-thou moment didn’t last long. Sen. Rubio quickly highlighted the fact that Cruz offered amendments “that would have expanded legal immigration and allowed work permits and green cards for undocumented immigrants.”
Sen. Cruz told MSNBC that it isn’t “complicated that on the seminal fight over amnesty in Congress, the Gang of Eight bill that was the brainchild of Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama, that would have granted amnesty to 12 million people here illegally, that I stood with the American people and led the fight to defeat it in the United States Congress.”
To be fair, Sen. Cruz voted against final passage of the bill while Sen. Rubio voted for it. That’s a distinction worth noting. Still, offering an amendment that would conditionally give 11,000,000 illegal aliens legal status by giving them green cards isn’t that different than giving them a path to citizenship. Again, to be perfectly fair, it’s definitely better to give illegal aliens legal status than giving them a direct pathway to citizenship.
Still, this should be seen as Sen. Rubio telling his fellow candidates that he’s prepared to highlight the flaws in other candidates’ positions on immigration purity. It’s a shot across the other candidates’ bows. It’s Sen. Rubio’s preemptive shot that tells the top tier candidates that they’re vulnerable, too.
This won’t help Sen. Cruz:
A spokesman for Cruz, Catherine Frazier, said that Rubio’s statement on legalization was “simply false” and that Cruz’s amendment “pointed out the hypocrisy of the Democrats who all along denied that this bill was solely about a path to citizenship.”
“Sen. Cruz has made it abundantly clear that we cannot address what to do with those currently here illegally until we secure the border and congress verifies it is secure,” Frazier said. “The amendments he presented were an effort to improve a fundamentally flawed bill – to stop illegal immigration and champion legal immigration. Once the Gang of Eight voted in lock step with the Democrats to block several Republicans’ efforts to fix the legislation, Ted Cruz led the fight to defeat the bill, exposed it for the amnesty that it was, which is why the House ultimately never took it up and it never passed Congress.”
Translation: Sen. Cruz supported amnesty light; Sen. Rubio supported amnesty. The only question remaining is whether this information will hurt either candidate’s credibility. At this point, that’s unknowable until the First in the Nation caucus in Iowa and First-in-the-Nation Primary in New Hampshire