The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller

              FILE - In this March 12, 2013 file photo, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. is seen on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee accused their GOP colleagues working on a bipartisan immigration bill of operating in secret, saying in a letter Friday, April 5, 2013, that "the time for transparency has come" and pushing for briefings and full hearings before any votes. In response, Rubio, a member of the Senate group developing a sweeping bill that could be released as early as next week, said he agreed on the need for hearings and planned to brief all Senate Republicans next week. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Rubio calls for debate on amnesty and guest-worker bill

Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio today endorsed requests by his fellow GOP senators for hearings on the pending amnesty and guest-worker bill, but did not promise to delay votes on the bill until the public understands what is in it.

“If the [Democratic] majority does not follow regular order [by holding some hearings and votes], you can expect that I will continue to defend the rights of every senator, myself included, to conduct this process in an open and detailed manner,” Rubio said in an April 5 letter to four GOP senators.

However, Rubio is just one of the eight senators writing the bill, and he did not promise to slow or halt the bill-writing process if his Democratic and Republican allies try to minimize the GOP’s ability to study, publicize and modify the still-secret bill.

Rubio’s letter was sent to senior GOP senators Jeff Sessions and Chuck Grassley, as well as Senate newcomers Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. The Florida Republican is writing the bill in cooperation with four Democrats, plus Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham, John McCain and Jeff Flake.

In a statement to The Daily Caller, Rubio’s spokesman said the senator is asking Democrats to schedule “several hearings in multiple committees.”

“We plan to ask others to study the costs & benefits past 10 years, with the recognition that legal immigration has historically been critical to our economic growth and young demographics,” Rubio spokesman Alex Conant told TheDC.

The controversial bill is a political minefield for Rubio.

It has won him short-term applause from Democrats and the their allies in the media, but may cost him critical support among the GOP base if he tries to win the GOP’s presidential nomination in 2016.

In an election, Rubio could also lose support among disenchanted, GOP-leaning voters if the amnesty and guest-worker bill damages the job opportunities and wages of Americans.

Polls by advocates for and against large-scale immigration show that most Americans and GOP voters strongly oppose an amnesty bill that doesn’t curb future illegal immigrants, and that they also worry about the economic impact of low-wage immigrants.

Rubio’s letter came in response to requests by Sessions and Grassley to the senators writing the bill. Their requests also went to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate judiciary committee.

“As members of the judiciary committee, we believe it is critical that the public and the entire Senate body be given adequate time to read and analyze the contents of any immigration bill,” Grassley and three of his Republican colleagues wrote in an April 4 letter to the four GOP senators helping to write the immigration bill. (RELATED: Republicans call for immigration transparency)

In response, Leahy has said he may schedule a single hearing.

Rubio’s April 5 response sought to reassure Grassley and his allies, but offered no guarantees.

“I have been clear in stressing, both in the bipartisan [immigration] group and publicly, that the most important part of the process is what comes after the legislation is introduced,” Rubio wrote.

Next week, he said, he would brief fellow GOP senators about the contents of the immigration bill.

“I continue to welcome, value and encourage any input you may have,” said Rubio, who was elected in 2010.