The Senate is expected to consider the Gang of 8 immigration bill next week, but Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who helped author the bill, suddenly doesn’t think it has the votes to break a filibuster.  At least, that’s what he’s saying publicly.

From NBC News:

“No, and I think even the Democrats would concede that. There’s a few reasons for it, but one of the things we’ve learned over the last few weeks through the open process that happened through the committee process and all the public input that we’ve gotten is how little confidence people have that the federal government will enforce the law.”

Rubio even said on the Hugh Hewitt show on Tuesday that if amendments to strengthen the bill don’t pass, he would vote against his own bill.

But others on the Hill don’t see it that way, leaving many asking – why the strong statements from Rubio?

Senator Lindsay Graham of the Gang of Eight, doesn’t seem concerned.

From National Review, which has a good write-up on the situation:

“The bill’s gonna pass. The question is how many Republicans can we get. From my point of view, the goal’s half the conference. I think that’s very achievable,” Senator Lindsey Graham told reporters yesterday. […]

“If we’re not able to pass immigration reform in 2013 and it’s the Republican party’s fault, we’re done in 2016. So the idea that we can back away, and have no political consequences – to me, from an individual point of view, and from a party point of view, is fantasy,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was also confident, as was Chuck Schumer, also according to National Review.

“Look, the bottom line is very simple, and that is we welcome amendments that will improve the bill and broaden support for the bill, provided it doesn’t get at our core principles. And Marco Rubio is very aware of our core principles. I talk to him every day,” Senator Chuck Schumer said.

Some think Rubio may be trying to open up space for border security amendments that would allow the bill to pass. (Also from National Review):

One former Senate leadership aide, a Republican who is against the bill, said Rubio has made a practice of making such comments whenever the critics of the bill seem to be gaining momentum.

Rubio’s remarks about the need to improve the bill are like a “release valve” to reduce the pressure of mounting criticism, the source said.

Another theory is that Rubio is creating the “space” for border-security amendments, such as those from Texas senator John Cornyn, who might vote for the bill under the right circumstances.

It may have to do with a certain number of Senators who prefer the bill contain language supporting stricter border protections. (Also from National Review):

“There are 15 to 20 people who if it was tightened – and that’s the question of what defines ‘tightened,’ a tighter version of border security – that they would be supportive of the overall bill. But that they needed to see something more,” said Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, who is strongly pushing the bill. Opponents of the bill put that number closer to ten senators. The names that come up in conversations about that group include Senators Mike Crapo, Orrin Hatch, James Risch, Jerry Moran, Pat Toomey, Bob Corker, Lamar Alexander, Kelly Ayotte, Roger Wicker, and Thad Cochran. Rubio is said to be most concerned about Cornyn and Coburn’s support.

On Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala wrote a letter to their fellow Congress members emphasizing the importance that border security considerations be strengthened as a prerequisite to creating a path to citizenship for 11 million immigrants here illegally.

Rubio told the Hugh Hewitt show that one change they’ve focused on is giving Congress more authority over enforcement of border security, rather than leaving the issue up to Homeland Security.

From FOX News:

“People don’t want to just turn it over to the Homeland Security Department to come up with a plan,” Rubio said. “They want the plan to be laid out specifically with real measurables, and I think that’s a good approach and so we’re working with members now to do that.”

“If we can pass a measure that ensures that we will never again have another wave of illegal immigration, I believe we will have immigration reform. And if we do not pass that, if that does not happen, I believe there will not be immigration reform. It’s as simple as that.”

Indeed, Senator John Cornyn of Texas has proposed a tough border plan for the bill.

From Reuters:

The proposal from Senator John Cornyn of Texas, a skeptic of the bill that would grant legal status to some 11 million undocumented immigrants, would require the Department of Homeland Security to have surveillance over the entire U.S.-Mexico border and meet a benchmark of apprehending at least 90 percent of people trying to cross the border illegally.

Cornyn would tie achievement of the benchmarks to the plan to give permanent legal status to undocumented immigrants. Many immigrants’ rights groups oppose such provisions, saying they would erode the path to citizenship at the heart of the bill.

Cornyn’s amendment would also expand the use of biometric equipment to track foreigners leaving the country.

Of course, it’s largely Democrats that have the ability to pass the bill, with only a few votes needed from Republicans.  While they wanted about 70 or 75 votes in all, 60 is the magic number.

The Senate is scheduled to begin debate on the bill on Monday.