Senator Marco Rubio said President Barack Obama showed he was only “interested in a talking point” by not consulting congressional Republicans on a directive halting the deportations of some young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.
The first-term senator from Florida, who declined to discuss reports that he is being vetted as a running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said Obama’s June 15 directive “injected election-year politics into an issue that privately I thought we were making progress on.”
After Obama made his announcement, Rubio, 41, said he was dropping plans to introduce legislation that could grant work visas to some young people brought to the U.S. illegally.
The Senate’s only Hispanic Republican, Rubio today criticized the Obama administration for not reaching out to him before announcing the directive, saying that not consulting Republicans showed that the president had no interest in a bipartisan solution.
“This White House didn’t reach out to anybody,” he said. “I’ve never had one conversation with anybody in the administration about my idea or what it looks like.”
Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, said he had been working behind the scenes in the Senate to gain support for his provision, which was similar to a Democratic proposal that Republicans and a few Democrats killed in the Senate in 2010, and hadn’t introduced legislation.
“If you’re really interested in a bipartisan solution and you read in the newspaper that there’s a Republican senator working on an idea, don’t you reach out to them and say, ’Hey, how does your idea work? I’m just curious,’” Rubio said. “That never happened.”
Rubio, who has campaigned with Romney, said the former Massachusetts governor was doing a good job of recasting the Republican Party as “the pro-legal-immigration party,” not just the “anti-illegal-immigration party.”
He pointed out that Republicans’ main objections following Obama’s announcement were centered on the president’s decision to bypass Congress, rather than on the substance of the policy change.
While he said that, in the short term, Democrats probably would continue to outstrip Republicans in terms of support from Hispanic voters, he attributed that deficit to large pockets of Latinos who live in areas dominated by Democrats and have formed ties with that party.
“What I think we should focus on is the growing number of Hispanic voters in key states like Florida, Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina, and others, that are much more open-minded, that do not a long-standing geographic allegiance to one party or ideology, who vote for the candidate, not the party,” he said.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll conducted May 16- 21 found that Obama had a 34-point lead over Romney among registered Latino voters.
Romney, who is speaking today in Orlando, Florida, to a convention of Latino public officials, said earlier this year during the Republican primaries that he opposed granting legal status to illegal immigrants. More recently he has been softening his tone; he declined to say what he would do about Obama’s policy if elected president, and said during a CBS interview that aired June 17 that he would “work with Congress to put in place a long-term solution.”
For many Hispanic voters, immigration is a “gateway issue” because most know personally someone affected by immigration policy, Rubio said, adding that Obama’s new policy left many unanswered questions about how it would be implemented and set back broader overhaul efforts.
“This issue will never be solved in a reasonable and responsible way until it it significantly de-politicized,” he said. “As long as immigration is a political issue used by both sides against each other, we will never reach the kind of reasonable and balanced approach to it that it needs and deserves.”
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