With Republicans foundering amid fiscal-cliff apoplexy and John Boehner looking more bewildered by the day, Marco Rubio, in a sharp departure from earlier hard-line immigration positions, said yesterday he's in favor of a pathway to citizenship.
Wait, wait, wait. Actually, what he said was: "The best way to deal with [the 11 million illegal immigrants] is not a special pathway to citizenship."
What Rubio wants instead is perhaps a Roundabout to Citizenship. Maybe a Road Construction: Detour to Citizenship.
As the New York Times put it: "After a certain period, he said, immigrants would be allowed to apply to become legal permanent residents, a status that would eventually allow them to become citizens."
Isn't that, um, a pathway to citizenship?
Well, no, said Rubio, who rode the Tea Party surge and anti-immigrant rhetoric into the U.S. Senate in 2010 and has since positioned himself not only for prominence in Congress but also for a prospective run at the White House.
His new position, he says, accounts for all sorts of things before granting undocumented workers legal status. For one, they have to show a clean criminal background, pay fines, and pass several language and "civic" tests. Then, they must go through a probationary period before entering a green-card line toward citizenship.
All of this sounds kind of familiar.
Oh, yeah: IT'S THE SAME EXACT THING BARACK OBAMA WANTS.
Undocumented workers "have to get right with the law before they can get in line and earn their citizenship," the prez says.
(The New Republican strategy: Copy everything -- except for taxes, silly! -- from Barack Obama. It seems to be working with the people.)
After Rubio unveiled his plan, Republicans flocked to the Miami politician's side. Paul Ryan, emerging from his recent electoral rejection, threw his support behind Rubio, saying on his Facebook page: "I support the principles he's outlined."
And while old white-guy stalwarts like John McCain and Lindsey Graham continue to harrumph against immigration, calling for mass deportation, there are tremors of something younger in the Republican Party, illustrated with Ryan and Rubio. It may just modernize the party.
Because if they don't, no one will.
Follow the writer @terrence_mccoy.