The Senate Judiciary Committee will begin writing the immigration-overhaul legislation today. The measure is likely to clear the panel, without modifications, in the next two weeks.
There is potential subplot, a narrative worthy of Hollywood. That is the contest, with implications for national Republican politics, between two freshman Cuban-American senators: Marco Rubio of Florida, a member of the bipartisan gang that assembled the draft bill, and Texas' Ted Cruz, a member of the committee. Both are solid conservatives and both have their eye on the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
Rubio continues to be criticized by conservative opponents of the immigration measure, though he is holding his own. (The cover of the conservative National Review this week carries the headline: "Rubio's Folly.")
Two senior Republicans on the Judiciary Committee, Jeff Sessions of Alabama and Charles Grassley of Iowa, are leading the opposition to the measure. In terms of credibility and articulation, they are no threat to the law's proponents, including Rubio.
Cruz is another matter: He is tough, smart and relishes political fights. He supported the immigration reform proposed by President George W. Bush. He opposes the current plan, though, so far, in a fairly measured way.
Republicans, and more than a few Democrats, are waiting to see if he turns up the heat in the committee. It won't affect the outcome, but if he does, supporters fear, it'll make the immigration issue even more divisive and could bring more pressure on his Republican colleagues, including Rubio. And as Bloomberg View's Ramesh Ponnuru recently suggested, the more the Washington establishment trashes Cruz, the stronger he gets with the party's base conservatives.
Here is the Tale of the Tape
Rubio - 41
Cruz - 42
Rubio - Immigrants from Cuba
Cruz - Father from Cuba, Mother from Delaware
Rubio - B.A. University of Florida, J.D. University of Miami
Cruz - B.A. Princeton University, J.D. Harvard University
Rubio - Catholic (formerly Mormon)
Cruz - Southern Baptist
Rubio - West Miami City Commissioner, Speaker of the Florida House
Cruz - Supreme Court Clerk, Texas Solicitor General
(Albert R. Hunt is a Bloomberg View columnist. Follow him on Twitter.)