Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s campaign went on the attack Monday with harsh words for Democrat U.S. Rep Val Demings, who aims to take his seat next year, over her calls to circumvent Congressional rules.
Rubio Communications Director Elizabeth Gregory singled out Demings’ support for including immigration reforms in a Democratic-backed $3.5 trillion spending plan whose blueprint narrowly cleared the U.S. House late last month.
Demings is “such a crusader for amnesty that she wants to bypass over 200 years of Senate rules in order to grant citizenship to illegal immigrants,” said a press release from Rubio’s campaign.
Demings wrote on Twitter Sunday that the Senate “should not allow arcane procedural rules to block real actions to help real people.”
Those provisions, she wrote, are “critical for our economy and our future.”
Demings was referring to a Sunday decision by Senate parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonald, the chamber’s nonpartisan rules interpreter, that Democrats could not include in the package immigration reforms for undocumented residents with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act protections.
Her reason: Policy measures must pass the Byrd rule, named for Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia, which says provisions cannot be added to bills if their budget effect is “merely incidental” to their overall policy impact.
MacDonald’s ruling severely hampers how Democrats can unilaterally enact changes that allow several categories of immigrants to gain permanent residence and possible citizenship. They have been trying to fast-track the spending package through a process called reconciliation, which would allow 50 Senate Democrats to pass budget legislation by a simple majority vote, thus avoiding a filibuster.
Without that protection, immigration reforms Democrats hoped to include in the package are vulnerable to dying from delays, as they are likely not to receive the 60 Senate votes necessary to overcome the stalling tactic that was first used in 1837, but only sparingly so until the late 20th Century.
Monday, Demings expanded on her Twitter post in a statement published on her House webpage, which added Florida farmers and critical workers to the list of those the blocked provisions would help.
“The Senate must move forward, and they should do so with the understanding that in a democracy, the majority should be able to pass legislation to serve the American people,” she wrote, calling out “inexcusable obstruction” by Senate Republicans. “The Senate must find alternate pathways to complete this work, and every Senate Republican should be held accountable for opposing immigration reforms that will protect workers, add an estimated $1.5 trillion to our economy and create 400,000 new jobs.”
While hardly alone in demanding that the filibuster end, Deming has been among its most outspoken opponents. In a June opinion column published by USA Today, she wrote that the filibuster “threatens the freedoms of every American,” as its ability to allow “a minority of senators (to) block critical legislation … undermines the basic principle that makes our democracy work: government of the people, by the people, for the people.”
She wrote: “(The) people voted. They chose their representatives. We cannot simply sit on our hands doing nothing critical during emergencies. It’s true that, perhaps, the other party will take power, and perhaps they will pass legislation that I believe would be bad for middle class families across our nation. But that’s how democracy works.”
But democracy is already at work, Rubio’s office said, pointing to what it described as “a series of radial, pro-amnesty votes (she) took last week to allow gang members, sexual abusers and drunk drivers to become citizens.”
Among them: votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee Sept. 13 against amendments to bar citizenship or residency for immigrants found to be members of gangs or convicted of a firearm offense, sexual offense that requires them to be added to a sex offender registry (not counting public urination and defecation).
Demings also voted against three amendments to prohibit immigrants from receiving residency or residency if they’d been convicted of driving under the influence, ranging in harshness from a one-DUI cutoff to a significantly more lenient 10-or-more-DUI limit.
National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesperson Priscilla Ivasco said in a statement that those votes, among others, “not only make Americans less safe but are far outside the mainstream of where Florida voters are.”
They’re even more egregious considering a flood of migration happening at the U.S.-Mexico border, Gregory said.
“As thousands of illegal immigrants are surging over our southern border, Val Demings is blaming the founding fathers for Democrats’ inability to grant amnesty to millions,” she wrote. “Demings would rather be a rubber stamp for (Senate Majority Leader) Chuck Schumer — just as she has been for (Speaker of the House) Nancy Pelosi — than fight for Florida families.”
Florida Politics reached out to Demings’ office for comment but received none at press time.