Republican Senator and presumed 2016 presidential hopeful Marco Rubio is turning heads with comments he made while on his book tour in Las Vegas. It appears Rubio is breaking with House GOP leadership and joining Democrats in calling for funding the Department of Homeland Security without provisions that would defund and essentially block President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty.
“We have to fund Homeland Security,” Rubio said. “We can’t let Homeland Security shut down.”
After the remarks hit the Internet, Rubio’s office offered a clarification:
“Senator Rubio does not support shutting down DHS. But he does support stopping the new executive order on immigration and is willing to support any approach we could get passed to stop it. But the President had made clear he will veto any effort to stop his unconstitutional order. And Senate Democrats have made clear they will not even end there filibuster on the DHS funding bill. The result will be a DHS shutdown which would be harmful to our national security.
“The answer is not for Republicans to surrender and pass a clean funding bill. The answer is for the President and Senate Democrats to abandon the executive order and cooperate in passing a series of immigration bills beginning with real border security.”
The House of Representatives has passed a funding bill for Homeland Security that includes blocking spending of any money to enact President Obama’s executive action granting temporary legal status — including work permits, Social Security numbers, tax benefits and access to collecting benefits from entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare — to 5 million illegal immigrants. Senate Democrats have been engaging in a filibuster of the bill, preventing the Senate from amending it to make it palatable to some Democrats.
President Obama has promised to veto the bill if it were to make it to his desk, but Democrats want to avoid that. Unilateral executive action on amnesty is unpopular with the American public and the president doesn’t want to be seen as causing a shut down of Homeland Security through his actions.
Funding for the Department of Homeland Security is set to expire at midnight on February 27 and will “shut down” at that point if a departmental budget is not passed. During the government shut down in 2013, nearly 200,000 of the department’s approximately 230,000 employees were deemed “essential” and not subject to layoffs.
In spite of that fact, Democrats have been attempting to scare Americans at the prospect of a department shut down. Maryland Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski said, “There are ghoulish, grim predators out there who would love to kill us or do us harm. We should not be dillydallying and playing parliamentary ping pong with national security.”
In addition to the threat of terrorist attack, Mikulski is also hyping possible massive damage to the economy. “If this goes to shutdown, this could close down ports up and down the East Coast because if you don’t have a Coast Guard, you don’t have the ports. You don’t have the ports, you don’t have an economy.”
In the 2013 government-wide shut down, the Coast Guard was deemed “essential personnel” and did not take off work.
How his statement and clarification will impact Rubio’s standing with potential GOP primary voters remains to be seen. As the lead Republican on the comprehensive immigration bill the Senate passed last session, Rubio is largely seen by many as pro-amnesty already.
This post has been updated to include the statement from Rubio’s office.