DAVID GREENE, HOST:
Now, back here in Washington, guns and immigration are both expected to top the agenda on Capitol Hill this week. And some people are sensing an outbreak of bipartisanship on both matters.
Joining us as she does most Mondays is Cokie Roberts. Cokie, good morning.
COKIE ROBERTS, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: Well, let's start with immigration, if we can. As we've reported elsewhere on the program, we saw one of the main senators who's negotiating legislation break a Sunday talk show record. Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio was just all over the place.
COKIE ROBERTS: Yes, he actually hit seven Sunday shows.
GREENE: Amazing, amazing.
ROBERTS: Even some Spanish-speaking ones, touting the immigration bill insisting that the path to citizenship is not amnesty, the fact that he is conservative, a Tea Party member, making the case is highly significant. He could bring other conservatives along. Here's what he said on CBS.
SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: I'm optimistic about it. I think this bill answers all the questions that people raised that's why it's taken so long. That's why we spent so much time on it. That's why we continue to spend time on it.
ROBERTS: So the Republican Party sincerely hopes that he is right, because the party as a whole really does want to get away from that anti-immigration image. So he could become the hero.
GREENE: And, of course, he does have some critics in his own party who call this amnesty and are concerned. But Cokie, we have this gang of eight senators who are working on this. Why was Rubio so popular?
ROBERTS: Well, you know, Sunday's talk shows hate sharing guests, so the fact that every single one of them put him on shows that he gets the ratings and that tells you about his star power, his possible presidential run in 2016. And, you know, the Republicans are thinking he might be the Obama of the Republican Party.
GREENE: Wow. That's saying a lot. Well, let's turn to the other subject that is big, making a lot of new this week, and that's guns. We have this bipartisan senate pair of West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey talking about a proposal for background checks. Remind us how we got here. I mean, we all remember, you know, I mean, the horrific tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Remind us how we've gotten to this place.
ROBERTS: Well, that tragedy is how we got to this place. The Newtown families were in Washington last week. The president flew them down on Air Force One and they made all the difference in actually getting the Senate to vote to bring this bill to the floor to debate it this week. They went around to the Senate - several members of the Senate, including Senator Manchin, the tough guy from West Virginia, was in tears after meeting with the families.
And then, President Obama gave one of the mothers his microphone for the weekly radio address, so they will keep up the pressure. Now, they're going to need it if they expect to get anything passed. A couple of smaller pro gun groups, other than the NRA, have endorsed this Manchin/Toomey background check bill. But there's a tremendous amount of opposition still there, and I wouldn't hold my breath on this one.
It's going to be very, very tough to get it through.
GREENE: Yeah, we've seen so many debates kind of get almost there in Washington and then kind of fall apart at the end. I mean, are you sensing a difference in the tone, Cokie. I mean, is there something - so much bitter partisanship over the last few years. Is there something new we're feeling here?
ROBERTS: I think there is something different in the Senate, but the House is another matter altogether, and it's really, really hard to get these things through the House. Look, the last year of his term, President Bush said to me that he really worked on getting immigration through and that the way the House districts are drawn, something we've talked about a lot, David, made all the difference because the only difficulty you can get into, for most members of the House, is to have somebody run against you in a primary, not in a general election.
So to be pure for your party is the most important thing. And that makes it very hard for Republicans to vote for immigration reform because, still, the majority of the party says that they are against any kind of path to citizenship. So it's interesting because the very thing that makes it very hard for Republicans to lose the House, these districts that are so safely drawn, make it hard for the party as a whole, with voters as a whole, both at the statewide level and especially at the presidential level. That's another reason why they're looking to Marco Rubio in the Republican Party.
GREENE: All right. Cokie Roberts, always good to talk to you here on MORNING EDITION.
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