Parsing Jeb II

Jeb Bush’s book not only rekindles the war within the GOP over amnesty and immigration; it sets up 2016 to be a potentially bruising primary with his friend Marco Rubio. UPDATE: Rubio responds.

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Hans Deryk / REUTERS

Republican Senate candidate Marco Rubio shakes hands with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush as he celebrates his victory at a rally in Coral Gables, Florida November 2, 2010.

If you’d asked anyone in Washington last week which Florida Republican was a frontrunner for the 2016 presidential nomination, the answer would be obvious: Marco Rubio. Just three weeks ago this magazine, perhaps with just a bit of its tongue in its cheek, named Rubio “The Republican Savior.”

This week, Rubio seems to have picked up some competition from someone nearly everyone thought was an ally.

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who helped Rubio get elected to the Senate in 2010, this week came out with a book on immigration, entitled Immigration Wars: Forging an American Solution. In it, Bush (along with Clint Bolick, his co-author) seems to take out a position on immigration to Rubio’s right, opposing a path to citizenship for adult illegal immigrants in the United States.

Rubio, a Cuban American whose signature issue has been immigration reform, last month came out in support of a path to citizenship.

Bush seemed unbothered by this dividing line while promoting the book on television on Tuesday, saying his plan was just a first offer and that if congressional negotiators come up with a proposal that includes amnesty he would support it as long as the penalties for those who acted illegally were stiff enough. “If you can craft that in law, where you can have a path to citizenship where there isn’t an incentive for people to come illegally, I’m for it,” he said on MSNBC’s Morning Joe. “I don’t have a problem with it. I don’t see you how you do it, but I’m not smart enough to figure out every aspect of a really complex law.”

Bush also said the book was written with Bolick last year at a time when most of the Republican Party was dead set against allowing any illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. His plan not only allows children who entered the country illegally a path to citizenship, it gives permanent residency – though not citizenship — to their parents and other undocumented adults. His thinking, he said, was to soften the ground for the Party to move to the center on the issue.

Maybe so. In the meantime, though, Rubio had already made the leap to amnesty – at least for the moment. Under his plan, which has formed the basis for legislation being hashed out by the Gang of 8 in the Senate, undocumented immigrants could earn citizenship following a long wait – from 10 to 15 years — and a series of stiff fines so as to discourage future illegal immigration.

Bush’s book not only rekindles the war within the GOP over amnesty and immigration; it sets up 2016 to be a potentially bruising primary, even amongst friends.


Sen. Marco Rubio to Politico today about Jeb Bush’s new book:

I think we’re still in the same place in terms of not wanting there to be a special advantage for people who have broken the law. What I understand he’s outlined…is kind of something I thought about for a long time and ultimately concluded that it probably isn’t good for the country to have millions of people here who are permanently barred [from] even applying for citizenship…It’s been a disaster for Europe.