Rubio brushes off 2016, urges immigration reform
November 15th, 2012
10:59 AM ET
9 years ago

Rubio brushes off 2016, urges immigration reform

Washington (CNN) - Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida hit back Thursday at the notion that his upcoming trip to headline a birthday fundraiser for Iowa's governor, Terry Branstad, may be a move to lay some groundwork for a potential presidential run.

Rubio said "the trip to Iowa has nothing to do with 2016," adding that he accepted the invitation before GOP nominee Mitt Romney lost the presidential election.

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The speaking gig quickly stirred talk of a future White House bid for Rubio, as the event provides the freshman senator the chance to mingle with the Republican class in Iowa, the first state to caucus in a presidential election.

Rubio said when he agreed to attend the fundraiser, which takes place Saturday, he did so at a time when he "fully believed" Romney would win the election and Rubio would be working for the GOP nominee's re-election in four years.

In fact, a GOP source told CNN last week that Rubio RSVP'd for the fundraiser in late August at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida.

His comments came in a wide-ranging interview with National Journal's Major Garrett at the Aspen Institute's Washington Ideas Forum, where Rubio also spoke frankly about a renewed sense of urgency in his push for immigration reform. He especially charged forward with a call to help undocumented students brought to the country illegally but now face deportation.

"They are more like refugees than illegal immigration folks," he said, describing the problem as a "humanitarian" issue. "It behooves us to find a permanent solution."

Rubio, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, has long been an advocate for immigration reform and drafted legislation that supposedly echoed provisions in the DREAM Act, Democratic-backed legislation aimed to help undocumented students gain legal status. The bill failed to garner enough support in Congress, despite several attempts.

Before unveiling his immigration plan, however, Rubio shelved the legislation after President Barack Obama issued a directive earlier this year that allows certain people younger than 30, who came to the United States illegally before age 16, to apply for a two-year deferral from deportation.

Immigration has been a prime topic among Republicans in the days following Romney's presidential loss. CNN national exit polls indicated Latinos turned out in huge numbers for Obama-71%–and a majority of voters overall–61%– said they supported the idea of granting legal status to most illegal immigrants.

Rubio expanded on the GOP soul searching, saying some in the party could adjust their tone on illegal immigration.

"Unfortunately conservatives have done an excellent job of defining what we're against but not a good enough job of what we are for," he said. "What we are for is a legal immigration system that works."

Asked about Romney's comment from the Republican primaries that illegal immigrants should "self-deport" and get in the back of the line in their own countries to apply for legal re-entry, Rubio, who was a leading surrogate for the GOP nominee, cautioned against using such language.

"It's hard to get people to listen to you...if they think you want to deport their grandmother," he said. "Policy matters, too, but rhetoric is important."

He later added that illegal immigrants should not be referred to as statistics. "We're speaking about human beings," he said.

The senator also weighed in on the thickening battle to find a deficit-reduction deal before an end-of-the-year deadline sets off the so-called fiscal cliff. Included in the fiscal cliff are massive spending cuts that were voted on by Congress and approved by Obama last year as an incentive for lawmakers to find a deal. If they failed to act, the bill stipulated, the country would face $1.2 trillion in automatic, across-the-board spending cuts starting in 2013.

Rubio, who voted against the bill in 2011, said the sequester "was a dumb idea and it's a dumber idea today."

"It was bipartisan dumb," he added. "People want bipartisan. There you have it."

Rubio, however, stressed he had a strong "economic objection" to the idea of raising tax rates as a way to bring in revenue, the main push being made by Senate Democrats and Obama. He forcefully argued such a policy would severely affect small business owners, while still not raising nearly enough to close the budget gap.

Republicans, meanwhile, propose limiting deductions and closing loopholes in the tax code-an approach Democrats say would also fail to raise enough revenue.

Saying "you can't cut your way" or "tax your way out of this," Rubio argued that the economy also needs more robust training and education in order to boost the work force.

Pressed on whether he would vote for a deal that included tax rates, Rubio said he would not "vote for anything that's not a solution." Asked to elaborate, he said he would vote for policies that spur "economic growth."

- CNN Political Editor Paul Steinhauser contributed to this report.

Filed under: 2016 • Fiscal Cliff • Immigration • Latinos • Marco Rubio
soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. Rick McDaniel

    We don't need immigration reform........we already have laws.......the government is imply failing to enforce those laws........because they WANT illegal immigrants to create an unbeatable party base, in elections, and establish a de facto dictatorship in America, by the Democratic Party.

    November 15, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  2. v_mag

    When it's all said and done, look for the GOP to nominate another old white guy in 2016. They can't help themselves. It's in their genes to believe that only an old white guy should ever be president. They will tease us with Rubio and Jindal and that crazy Nikki Haley from South Carolina, but it'll be an old white guy on the ticket.

    And as far as immigration reform goes, I think Mitt expressed the party's sentiments best when he urged undocumented workers to "self-deport". That has always been their position, and I don't see anything changing it. They might very well try to obscure their position in people's minds, but they won't change their position.

    November 15, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  3. Al Ford

    What does Immigration reform mean? Make it easier for those who are qualified to come to the U.S. or instead favor a certain specific demographic? In which case that would not be fair.

    November 15, 2012 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  4. proudmemberofglobalzero

    What we don't need is the opinion of my Senator Rubio. He has a mess in his own house to clean up. If CNN and others would do their jobs and get the facts on Rubio....he would not be in office.

    Bill Nelson supporter in Florida. Yes, I am the youngest old person here.

    November 15, 2012 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  5. v_mag

    RIck McDaniel: "...and establish a de facto dictatorship in America, by the Democratic Party."
    Rick's side lost in a fair election, and his answer is to accuse the Democratic Party of establishing a dictatorship. He refuses to acknowledge that this country would fall apart if all those people mowing his lawn, cooking his food, caring for his kids, and generally doing the country's dirty work suddenly left.

    When RIck's boy George W. was in charge, passing out no-bid contracts, lying to start wars, performing torture, invading countries, and filling up Guantanamo with anybody they could grab off the street in downtown Kabul, Rick didn't consider that to be in any way improper or dictatorial. But when someone who was a child when he crossed the border, who is doing useful work or getting an education here, wants to stay and help build America, Rick thinks that dictatorship has arrived.

    November 15, 2012 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  6. Bill

    Seems to me Mr. Rubio has a lot to do in his home state. Obama won 60% of the Cuban-American vote in Florida. Also, a guy who can not get his own family history straight clearly has a character problem.

    November 15, 2012 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  7. Guest

    Secure the border, deport illegals and then we can discuss reforming legal immigration that is fair to all. You think the dems would let 20 million white european illegals stay here ahead of those following tour immigration laws......

    November 15, 2012 11:42 am at 11:42 am |
  8. Bill from GA

    Rubio couldn't win Florida.

    Rubio also couldn't get past the righties to win the republican primary, without zillions of 'Big-Busines' dollars backing him.

    November 15, 2012 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  9. Jose oconor

    Rubio should first star talking about the Cuban and the Cuban Adjustment Act, when he talked about staying illegal in the US for a year and a day to automatically become residents, then we should start by ending this, Mr. Rubio the we talk about other Latinos, hey he does not even see eye to eye with 60% of the cubans in Miami.

    November 15, 2012 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  10. bert

    the laws for immigration are in black and white in the books but the goverment is not functioning . is ime for people to protest and request the border be sealed and those who are ilegal deported in their home countries. end of story. americans can not support ilegals anymore. enough is enough

    November 15, 2012 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. ConsiderThis, FL

    Rubio is yet ANOTHER REPUBLICAN EMPTY SUIT. He IS NOT presidential material. Just like Romney, he thinks he can slick his way into the White House and the republicans are going to be too happy to put him out front as their token Hispanic. And, he'll accept that designation gleefully.

    November 15, 2012 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  12. Thomas

    @Jose oconor
    Rubio should first star talking about the Cuban and the Cuban Adjustment Act, when he talked about staying illegal in the US for a year and a day to automatically become residents, then we should start by ending this, Mr. Rubio the we talk about other Latinos, hey he does not even see eye to eye with 60% of the cubans in Miami.

    Your absolutely right !
    Rubio needs to support an immigration policy that is fare and just for all peoples. It's time to change our immigration and foreign policy with Cuba .
    However since most of Rubio's large donors are Cuban exiles , he wont bite the hand that feeds him.

    As for him running in 2016 , has anybody read his twitter posts ? I know teenagers who are more in touch with reality then Rubio. how old is he ?

    November 15, 2012 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |