Sen. Marco Rubio gave a downcast assessment Sunday about Congress passing immigration reform, arguing that fellow Republicans are leery about dealing with President Obama on the issue since he would not negotiate fairly during the recent fiscal crisis.
“Immigration reform is going to be a lot harder to accomplish than it was three weeks ago,” Rubio, R-Fla., who helped pass the Senate legislation handed to the Republican-controlled House, told “Fox News Sunday.”
Rubio said he agreed with Idaho Republican Rep. Raul Labrador who last week said House Republican leadership would be “crazy” to negotiate with Obama if the president makes the same “good faith effort” on an immigration bill that he did on fiscal negotiations and that Obama is “trying to destroy” the Republican Party.
“That’s not to say” Obama might agree to a path to citizenship for some of the roughly 11 million illegal immigrants in the country and to enforcing immigration laws, only to cancel the enforcement component, Rubio said.
The issue returned to the spotlight hours after Congress agreed on a deal to temporarily end the partial government shutdown and increase the federal debt limit, when Obama called on Congress on Thursday to swiftly reach an immigration-reform agreement.
“If the House has ideas on how to improve the Senate bill, let’s hear them. Let’s start the negotiations,” the president said. “This can and should get done by the end of this year.”
Despite Rubio’s reservations about negotiating with the president, he was steadfast in his argument that the country needs to fix a broken immigration system.
“There’s no argument the immigration system has to be fixed,” he told Fox News.
Rubio also defended himself and the Senate legislation, which has been called an amnesty program.
He said the country is now operating under a “de facto” amnesty program and that he’s not concerned about his sagging poll numbers amid a potential 2016 presidential run.
“I continue to believe it’s an important issue for our nation to confront,” Rubio said.
His comments come amid concerns from conservatives who think House leaders might meet with Senate negotiators, which would result in the lower chamber’s step-by-step plan, which begins with securing U.S. borders, being “blended” with the upper chamber’s comprehensive plan.
Rubio also said the House deserves “time and space” to craft its own legislation that “might be even better.”