Rubio backs Senate bill, endorses some changes

Neil Munro White House Correspondent
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Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called May 21 for some unspecified changes to the Senate immigration bill, but didn’t suggest he would withdraw his much-touted support if the bill’s border security, worker-protections and spending limits aren’t improved.

“We have an historic opportunity to end today’s de facto amnesty and modernize our immigration system … I remain optimistic that the Senate, by improving the bill through an open and deliberative floor debate, will seize this opportunity,” he said in an evening statement after the Senate’s judiciary committee voted 13 to 5 to send the bill to the Senate floor for a vote in June.

Rubio’s comments continued his pattern of praising conservative opponents and supporters of the bill, calling for minor changes, and urging his fellow GOP Senators to support the bill.

On May 21, for example, Rubio praised a panel of 150 diverse GOP leaders and advocates who urged GOP Senators to completely reject the bill as unworkable.

”No matter how well intentioned, the Schumer-Rubio bill suffers from fundamental design flaws that make it unsalvageable … the Senate would do better to start over from scratch,” said the letter, which was signed by Red State’s Erick Erickson, radio host Mark Levin, the Hoover Institution’s Victor Davis Hanson and other conservatives.

The large bill “cedes excessive control over immigration law to an administration that has repeatedly proven itself to be untrustworthy, even duplicitous, legalizes millions of illegal immigrants before securing the borders, thus ensuring future illegal immigration … hurts American job-seekers, especially those with less education [and] threatens to bankrupt our already strained entitlement system,” said the letter.

Their complaints, Rubio said on Larry Kudlow’s TV show, primarily “seem to be about the size and scope of the bill.”

“It is a concern that I’ve shared in the past and quite frankly continue to share [but] now is the time to act on this issue and get it solved,” he said, adding “the status quo is just as bad.”

Rubio also tried to offset the conservatives’ objection by citing a May 8 letter from prominent Republicans such as Grover Norquist, Douglas Holtz-Eakin, Fred Malek and Al Cardenas.

The May 8 group are “equally impressive conservatives,” who back the rewrite because of economic benefits, said Rubio. “Legal immigration, done right… should be a net positive for the United States,” he said.

“The amended bill that heads to the Senate floor would make significant progress to secure our borders … and modernize the legal immigration system to meet America’s 21st century economic needs for both highly skilled talent and guest workers to fill labor shortages,” Rubio said in his evening statement.

Conservative objections should be “addressed” in the floor debate, Rubio told Kudlow.

For example, conservative objections to a continued flow of illegal immigrants are “a very reasonable request, a very reasonable position, and one that I think we need to be able to accomplish if we want this to become a law,” he said.

GOP Senators also objected to a provision in the bill that would provide income-tax credits to the 11 million illegal immigrants.

That problem should be addressed in the floor debate, Rubio said, adding “let’s examine the entire tax code and get rid of that provision, especially the way it is being abused.”

Some conservative immigration opponents still publicly hold out hope that Rubio will oppose the bill.

““Rubio can continue, double down on a stacked deck in a fixed game or he can walk away,” said Bob Dane, a spokesman at the Federation for American Immigration Reform. “If he does – and he only has a short window of opportunity to do so – he’ll salvage his career and provide much needed and appreciated political cover for many Republicans who are looking for the escape hatch,” he said May 20.

But Rubio won’t walk away from the bill, predicted David Leopold, the counsel for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, which supports the bill.

“Rubio has staked his entire political future on the passage of comprehensive immigration reform, as introduced by the bipartisan Gang of Eight [and] he has much more to lose by turning his back on the reform package,” Leopold TheDC May 19.

“Clearly, Senator Rubio is taking a political risk in standing behind immigration reform that includes a tough, but reasonable, road to citizenship.  But such risks are the stuff of true statesmanship,” Leopold said.

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