Immigration Reform 2013: Sen. Marco Rubio Tells GOP To Not Pass His Immigration Bill
By Manuel Campos
Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who did more than any senator to rally conservative support for the sweeping immigration bill the Senate passed in June, is now withdrawing his support from the bill he helped author.
Rubio was a leading member of a bipartisan "Gang of Eight" Senator who pushed a comprehensive immigration reform bill through the chamber earlier this year.
His new position mirrors that of House Republican leaders. They have said they would deal with the complex immigration issue one piece at a time, though they have yet to bring any bills to the floor and haven't laid out a timeline for doing so.
The bill passed by the Senate included provisions for border security, visa programs for high-tech and low-skilled workers, a requirement that employers verify workers' immigration status and a path to citizenship for people in the U.S. illegally.
An 'all or nothing' strategy on immigration reform would result in nothing," Rubio spokesman Alex Conant told MSNBC. "What is keeping us from progress on a series of immigration issues on which there is strong consensus is the fear that a conference committee on a limited bill will be used to negotiate a comprehensive one. We should take that option off the table so that we can begin to move on the things we agree on."
Instead, Rubio is suggesting the House pass a series of piecemeal bills that could fall short of a comprehensive package, a direction Conant called more "realistic."
Mr. Rubio's shift comes after he was criticized by fellow conservatives for championing the Senate bill, which he often did in emotional terms as the son of Cuban immigrants. His approval ratings among Republicans have sunk in national polls, as has his standing among potential 2016 presidential candidates.
"I still want to solve immigration. I think it's an important issue for the country to deal with. But I don't think that we should not do anything because we can't do everything. That was my original position and continues to be my preferred option because I just think we're going to get a better result that way," Rubio said Friday in an interview on CNN's "New Day."
"I think when you try to do anything big in Washington, it ends up running into headwinds. Now that's the direction the Senate went. I wanted to influence that process so I got involved in it. But I continue to believe that a series of sequential individual bills is the best way, the ideal way, to reform our immigration system," added Rubio in an interview with CNN anchor Kate Bolduan.
"He could've been a contender, you know? He was for immigration reform before he was against it," said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-reform America's Voice, who said he was "flabbergasted" by the comments. "It's just the worst kind of flip-flopping and pandering. It gives the word politician a bad name."