Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is working to put as much daylight as possible between him and President Obama on immigration, insisting that a leaked White House proposal is totally different than his own plan.
“Our policy folks spent the last few hours going through the WH’s legislative proposal [and] have found major differences between what the President is proposing and what Sen. Rubio and the bipartisan group of Senators have agreed to,” Rubio spokesman Alex Conant wrote in a memo to reporters on Tuesday.
Conant said the administration proposal was “not a permanent solution” because it lacked either a guest worker program or an alternative program to deal with future immigrant workers. While the White House did include a number of new border security measures, Conant reiterated Rubio’s insistence that a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants only go into effect after the border security portion of a bill is implemented. “If passed, the US would likely have millions of new illegal immigrants in the future,” Conant wrote of the Obama proposal.
Rubio earlier bashed the “half baked” White House draft, saying it would be “dead on arrival” if introduced in Congress. Administration officials have said Obama plans to formally propose his preferred bill only if the Senate and House fail to pass their own legislation.
To be fair to the White House, the leaked draft was not a complete bill and Obama has said in speeches that he favors some kind of temporary worker program in his final plan. Rubio and the Senate group he’s working with to negotiate a bill haven’t released their plan for a guest worker program either. Both sides are likely waiting for negotiations between labor and business groups on a compromise plan to conclude before they draft the relevant language.
Rubio’s office is engaged in a genuine dispute with the White House over the border trigger measure, a point of disagreement the Senator has often emphasized to conservative audiences. But on the broad principles for a comprehensive bill articulated in Obama’s public statements and the administration’s leaked draft, they’re largely on the same page. These similarities are generating headlines like the one below from Rubio’s hometown Miami Herald, which analyzed the full text of the White House’s draft legislation.
Conant denied suggestions that Obama’s bill could help Rubio court Republican votes by allowing him to play up his remaining differences with the White House, a tactic he’s often turned to in interviews with skeptical conservative commentators.
“Some pundits have speculated the White House leak was good for the process since it shows contrast between the Republicans and the White House,” Conant wrote. “While I appreciate the valiant search for a silver-lining, the truth is that the White House has injected additional partisanship into an already difficult process, and raised fresh questions about the President’s seriousness about passing reform.”
In addition, Rubio’s office called out the White House for allegedly not reaching out to the Republicans for input on its bill. White House Press Secretary Jay Carney pushed back against this accusation at his daily briefing on Tuesday, saying “we have been in contact with everybody involved in this effort on Capitol Hill.”
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.