Sen. Marco Rubio suggested Republicans–including himself–might not support the sweeping immigration reform bill unless further revisions are made.
“I can tell you that the bill as currently structured is not going to pass in the House. And I think it’s going to struggle to pass in the Senate,” the Florida senator told reporters on Wednesday after a meeting with fellow GOP leaders in the Senate and the House. He warned the bill–which he helped draft–has little hope of survival as currently written.
“Let’s remember: the goal here is not to pass a bill out of the Senate. The goal here is to reform our immigration laws,” he said. “And that requires something that can pass the House, the Senate, and be signed by the president.”
The heart of the issue is border security. Rubio, a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” argued that provisions need to be tightened before GOP lawmakers will fully get on board with any deal. He also wants some of the power shifted away from the Department of Homeland Security.
On Wednesday, Rubio and fellow Republican senators including Jeff Flake, Rand Paul, Jeff Sessions, and Ted Cruz discussed reform efforts with their GOP counterparts in the House. The group met in the basement of the Capitol to voice their concerns.
The meeting didn’t go as well as planned: Idaho Rep. Raul Labrador walked out of the talks over a disagreement on how to handle newly legal immigrants who were previously undocumented, and whether they should be eligible to receive health care from the government.
Rubio has started to distance himself from the “Gang of Eight” piece of legislation. During an interview with radio host Hugh Hewitt Tuesday, Rubio said they need to “strengthen the border security parts of this bill so that they’re stronger, so that they don’t give overwhelming discretion to the Department of Homeland Security.” When asked point-blank if he would support his own bill if it didn’t include those amendments, Rubio said, “If those amendments don’t pass, then I think we’ve got a bill that isn’t going to become law, and I think we’re wasting our time. So the answer is no.”
The bill is expected to hit the Senate floor next week and lawmakers will get the chance to offer amendments to tweak the language. Rubio and Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez said they currently lack the 60 votes needed for passage.