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Greg Sargent: Senate Democrats Will Reject Cornyn's Poison Pill Amendment To Immigration Bill

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There’s been a lot of news about Senator John Cornyn’s plans to introduce a poison pill border security amendment when the Gang of 8 immigration bill hits the floor next week. This afternoon, Greg Sargent reports on a very important development: Senate Democrats aren’t going along with Cornyn. They will not accept language that undermines the path to citizenship, which is what Cornyn is attempting.

From Greg:

Senate Democrats have privately decided that the amendment offered by Senator John Cornyn to strengthen border security — the latest high-profile effort by Republicans to shift the bill dramatically to the right — is too onerous and is unacceptable to them, according to an aide to a Democratic member of the Gang of Eight.

The move is important, because Cornyn’s amendment has emerged as a key new demand among Republicans as part of their effort to make the bill acceptable to conservatives — which ultimately can be seen as a challenge to determine just how much Dems are willing to give away to get broad support for the bill. If Dems stick to their vow to kill the Cornyn amendment, it will send an encouraging sign that Dems really do intend to hold the line against any Republican efforts to undermine the core of the bill, i.e., the path to citizenship.

Senate Dems have decided that two key aspects of Cornyn’s amendment — which are designed to create enforcement “triggers” that must be met before the path to citizenship is operative – are unacceptable, the aide tells me. In particular, Cornyn’s demand for at least a 90 percent apprehension rate along the southern border, and the “Biometric Exit System” being fully operational at all air and sea ports of entry, are both unacceptable as triggers for citizenship, the aide tells me.

As for Cornyn’s demand that the bill provide for the hiring of 5,000 border security agents, the Dem aide notes that Republicans have not explained how this would be paid for, so the idea is unworkable on its face. (This echoes some of David Drucker’s recent reporting.)

This is a key marker from Dems. It is intended to send a signal to Republicans that they are not willing to allow them to undermine the most basic aspect of the bill — that the path to citizenship not be contingent on unreasonable demands or triggers. It complicates matters for Marco Rubio, a member of the bipartisan Gang of Eight, who is trying to demonstrate that he is pushing the bill to the right — and has said he is broadly supportive of Cornyn’s efforts as part of that process.

In fact, Politico updated its reporting today to inform us that Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is not a co-author of the Cornyn amendment.

Greg’s conclusion lays out the challenge ahead. This really is all about the path to citizenship and whether enough Republicans will accept that:

If Dems hold fast against Cornyn’s amendment, an important message — that anything that compromises the path to citizenship is unacceptable – will be loud and clear. And it will mean that immigration reform’s prospects turn on one thing, and one thing alone: Can Republicans accept a path to citizenship with reasonable conditions, or not?

Yep. That’s the question.