Rival contenders for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination called out Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for shifting their position on immigration on Thursday.
During a debate broadcast by Fox News from Iowa, the state that kicks off the presidential nominating contest next week, Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, and Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky, took Cruz and Rubio to task, respectively, for once supporting naturalization for illegal immigrants — and now claiming they never did.
Both senators in fact backed legislation in 2013 that would have boosted border security while simultaneously making it possible for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status and eventually citizenship.
The bill passed with strong support from Democrats and Republicans in the Senate that year, but it was never taken up by the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
What makes Cruz’ change of heart insufferable to colleagues is not just his refusal to own up to it; it’s that he now routinely accuses other Republicans of supporting “amnesty”.
The Texas senator, who is a favorite to place first in the Iowa caucuses, previously defended his support for the immigration bill by claiming he was only introducing amendments to it that he knew Democrats could not support. That way, Cruz has said, he was trying to derail the effort.
However, after Fox played multiple video clips of Cruz passionately arguing in favor of the proposed reforms — with moderator Megyn Kelly noting it all sounded “pretty convincing” — Cruz changed tack and said he contributed to the bill to make sure there wouldn’t be a possibility of citizenship for those who have entered the United States illegally.
Paul was unconvinced. “He can’t have it both ways,” the libertarian said.
“What is particularly insulting,” Paul added, “is that he is the king of saying, ‘Oh, you’re for amnesty. Everybody is for amnesty except for Ted Cruz.’ But it’s a falseness.”
Rubio later accused Cruz of wanting to “trump Trump on immigration,” referring to the billionaire property mogul who has called for a full immigration stop.
“The truth is,” Rubio told Cruz, “throughout this campaign you’ve been willing to do or say anything to get votes.”
“Cut and run”
Rubio is one to talk, though.
As Bush pointed out, the first-term senator “led the charge” for immigration reform in 2013 but “cut and run” when it turned out to be unpopular on the right.
The former governor and brother of the last Republican president argued there should be “a path to legal status” for the estimated eleven million illegal immigrants in the United States.
Rubio then countered that his rival had changed his position (away from supporting a path to citizenship).
Bush pointedly replied, “So did you.”