Rubio and White House in war of words over immigration meetings
February 19th, 2013
04:21 PM ET
2 years ago

Rubio and White House in war of words over immigration meetings

Washington (CNN) - The temperature's rising between Sen. Marco Rubio and the White House over immigration reform. And it got to the point Tuesday that President Obama picked up the phone.

Earlier Tuesday the Republican senator from Florida's press secretary put out an email release stating President Barack Obama and his staff were not working with congressional Republicans on immigration reform.

"Contrary to what the WH COS (Chief of Staff Denis McDonough) said on the Sunday shows, President Obama and the White House staff are not working with Republicans on immigration reform. Senator Rubio's office has never discussed immigration policy with anyone in the White House," wrote Rubio press secretary Alex Conant. "To be clear: That's fine with us – we actually think Congress should write the policy; not the White House. But an honest question: If the Obama Administration is serious about drafting & passing its own immigration reform, why wouldn't they seek input from any Republicans whose support they'll need."

The White House disputed the contention that administration officials had not contacted Rubio's staff over immigration. A senior administration official told CNN there were five meetings in which White House staff and "Gang of Eight" staff were present to discuss immigration reform. The White House says this included staff from Rubio's office.

Then Tuesday afternoon, Obama called Rubio and two other Republican senators involved in the immigration effort to "discuss their shared commitment to bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform and to commend the senators for the bipartisan progress that continues to be made by the Gang of 8 on this important issue," the White House said.

Rubio is one of four GOP senators who are teaming up with four Democratic senators, known as the "Gang of Eight," in an effort to achieve a bipartisan immigration overhaul bill. Over the weekend he pounced on the Obama administration after news the White House was preparing their own legislation, should Congress fail to act. Rubio said such a bill would be "dead on arrival."

Neither the statement from the White House nor one from Rubio's office indicated the two sparred over the draft plan, though the White House statement noted Obama indicated "that while he is pleased with the progress and supportive of the effort to date, he is prepared to submit his own legislation if Congress fails to act."

Conant said that Rubio "appreciated" the call from Obama, which he took while traveling.

"The senator told the president that he feels good about the ongoing negotiations in the Senate, and is hopeful the final product is something that can pass the Senate with strong bipartisan support," Conant said.

Earlier in the day Tuesday, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the administration had reached out to the offices of each "Gang of Eight" member and the president met with the Democratic members of the bipartisan group.

"Let's be clear," Carney said. "The problem here isn't a lack of meetings around the table in the Roosevelt Room or the Cabinet Room."

And Tuesday afternoon, Rubio's office acknowledged that that the meetings had taken place, but said they were not asked by the White House for input on the administration's backup bill.

"We have never discussed immigration policy with anyone from the White House. The Administration has sent some agency officials to brief staff at the bipartisan group meetings, but they've never asked for our input," Conant told CNN. "We've never received a call or email from Cecilia Munoz [director of the White House Domestic Policy Council] or anyone else at the White House asking for our input as they draft their bill."

This back and forth follows the weekend leaking of draft White House legislation on immigration in case the "Gang of Eight" work is not successful at producing a bill. After USA Today reported the existence of the draft, the White House reached out to Senate offices, including Rubio's, late Saturday and said the leak was inadvertent, an aide to Rubio told CNN.

Rubio is currently traveling on an official congressional trip to Jordan and Israel.

– CNN Chief White House Correspondent Jessica Yellin, CNN National Political Correspondent Jim Acosta, CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser and CNN Senior Producer Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.


Filed under: Immigration • Marco Rubio • President Obama
soundoff (23 Responses)
  1. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Tuesday the Republican senator from Florida's press secretary put out an email release stating President Barack Obama and his staff were not working with congressional Republicans on immigration reform."

    So, Mr. Rubio is going to make a mockery of immigration reform by whining and complaining he isn't being considered Top Dog with all the answers.

    Who'd of thought...

    February 19, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  2. yanni

    The child with tiny water bottle is complaining while he is doing his make me president tour across the Middle East.

    February 19, 2013 04:26 pm at 4:26 pm |
  3. ray

    who is this moron??????? this guy is a wana be president which he could never be. republicans one word for all of you. RACISTS.

    February 19, 2013 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  4. Sniffit

    "So, Mr. Rubio is going to make a mockery of immigration reform by whining and complaining he isn't being considered Top Dog with all the answers. "

    Of course he is. The GOP/Teatrolls aren't serious about immigration reform...they're serious about avoiding their demographic armageddon. This entire gambit was an attempt to stick a brown person on the GOP/Teatrolls' front line as their "face of immigration reform" and then try to usurp all credit for anything that passes, which they and the MSM would promptly treat as solving all the immigration woes suffered by both those here illegally and those who wish to come here....not to mention border security. It's simple...picka brown dude to say everythign Obama's been saying for 4 years and pretend it was all his idea, pass something if you can get it past the TEatrolls who adamantly oppose any pathway to citizenship and then parade it around as "hey, all you brownies should love us now because we saved immigration reform, so forgot all those decades of us behaving like racists and alienating you." Any indication that this manufactured narrative will or is going to fail will entirely blow this up and the GOP/Teatrolls will back off on cooperating to get it done. They'll figure on waiting until 2016 when they "win" the election...you know, after 4 years of more voter ID laws, gerrymandering and maybe a couple potshots at the electoral college system.

    February 19, 2013 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  5. Moose

    Its clear bamman keeps his head in his craw, what else can ya say ???

    February 19, 2013 04:39 pm at 4:39 pm |
  6. rs

    The Republicans have NO intention of changing anything on immigration. This is simply distraction. As long as the vague "secure border" language is in place Republican Governors like Perry and Brewer will hold things up.

    February 19, 2013 04:40 pm at 4:40 pm |
  7. Larry L

    Rubio could simply point out the things he likes about both plans and encourage the Congress to craft a bill. But wait... that wouldn't be obstructive. That would help America... He'd get a bad score on his next Tea Party report card.

    February 19, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  8. Sniffit

    Rubio;s staff went to the WH...that is going to be a matter of record, so they're initial denials are ridiculous dishonesty.

    If they went to the WH, you can be sure they talked about immigration reform, so denials there are ridiculous too.

    If they went to the WH and talked about immigration reform, you can also be sure they shared their ideas...such as they are...so denials there are absurd.

    What they're mad about is that they are having trouble making sure they get all the credit and that a narrative exists for the MSM to latch onto that helps them sell that nonsense...after pretty much taking Obama's ideas and slapping their name on it and saying "those are now ours." That's it. Simple.

    February 19, 2013 04:41 pm at 4:41 pm |
  9. Just Saying

    Rubio talks out of both sides of his mouth!

    February 19, 2013 04:43 pm at 4:43 pm |
  10. Pete

    How can anyone listen to a guy that can't make up his mind what religion he's in.Or is he'd paid up on his fines for stealing from the campaign coffers to fix his parents car and buy a house,$8000 in fines and counting ,can you say corrupt Hispanic like most of that states fraud cases,got their finger prints all over them!!

    February 19, 2013 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  11. ritmocojo

    Funny but he was all for it until Obama mentioned it as part of his plan.

    February 19, 2013 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    And so again with the double-standard catch-22 nonsense. Obama does nothing and "he's not leading." He drafts up a proposal to be used if Congress can't get their shyte together and "he's interfering."

    Reality: the GOP/Teatrolls just don't think a black dude should be POTUS and certainly aren't going to listen to one.

    February 19, 2013 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  13. Dutch/Bad Newz, VA

    Once again we have republicans trying to make something out of nothing. Look guys! You can't out maneaver the President. If you haven't learned anything about this President in the last 4 years, there's one thing you idiots should realize: HE'S SMARTER THAN YOU

    February 19, 2013 04:52 pm at 4:52 pm |
  14. SierraBW

    Sorry Mr. Rubio is starting out this way. If he keeps up the lies and half truths he will be a star only in the GOP. I am certain HIspanics want a representative in Washington who can deal faithfully and truthfully about the issues that concern them most. Surely, the issue of immigration shouldn't be kicked about like all the other issues of import. The only thing consistent about the GOP is that they handle each issue with the same lack of insight and the same stupidity. Before Rubio knows it, he will be replaced, but if it is with someone who is willing to lie in order to get along with the GOP, he or she too will have zero impact on the matter of immigration.

    February 19, 2013 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  15. Bootstomper

    Rubio what a rube.

    February 19, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  16. kayla

    suddenly the repugnant savior is trying to be relevant. imagine a latino as their leader, never in a million years

    February 19, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  17. gop usa

    Rubio is a disgrace to the gop,he is nothing but a TOKEN,and a panderer to illegal Mexicans and latinos......figures because Rubio is the product of illigal immigration.........after all he is an anchor baby. The gop needs to boot this disgrace.

    February 19, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  18. Bill

    If this is guy is the future of the GOP, the Democrats have nothing to worry about.

    February 19, 2013 05:08 pm at 5:08 pm |
  19. Sniffit

    "Rubio talks out of both sides of his mouth!"

    You have to when there's a plutocrat's _____ stuck in the middle of it.

    February 19, 2013 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  20. PaulCat

    Poor baby, don't cry. President Obama doesn't have time to come out and play.

    February 19, 2013 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  21. Lynda/Minnesota

    "Any indication that this manufactured narrative will or is going to fail will entirely blow this up and the GOP/Teatrolls will back off on cooperating to get it done."

    Reminds me of that old 60s song "It's my party, I'll cry if I want to; cry if I want to ... you would cry too if it happened to you." When all is said and done, Rubio will wish he never got involved and slinker off into the sunset along with the rest of the GOPer bigots unable to see through their hate.

    Meanwhile ....

    February 19, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  22. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    Why would anybody in the white house discuse anything with a novice and failure like Rubio who will probably lose in a dem landslide in the 2014 mid terms ,Rubio should go back to Cuba or somila where he might have a chance to get elected for village idiot.

    February 19, 2013 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  23. don in albuquerque

    I have been remiss in not checking more into Rubio's background. After the silly "Savior" article I have started reading up. I do not like what I am finding. Misuse of campaign funds for which he paid a fine of eight thousand, alot of uncertainty about how his parents came to America which involves his story being quite different from the truth, an ongoing investigation, and this is just 20 minutes of reading the web. And why, and who is paying for his trip to the middle east? One would think the GOTP is tired of having egg on their face, but then again maybe not.

    February 19, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |