WASHINGTON (AP) — Prospects for comprehensive immigration legislation this year grew murkier on the eve of an all-out push by a coalition of business, religious and law enforcement to convince the House to overhaul the decades-old system.
Proponents seized on two developments as a Senate-passed measure remains stalled in the House — President Barack Obama's meeting at the White House on Tuesday with a House Republican working on legislation and a California GOP lawmaker's willingness to back a House Democratic plan.
But in a blow to their effort, Sen. Marco Rubio signaled support for the piecemeal approach in the House despite his months of work and vote for the comprehensive Senate bill that would provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants living here illegally and tighten border security.
The Florida Republican — son of Cuban immigrants and a potential presidential candidate in 2016 — had provided crucial support for the bipartisan Senate bill.
"Sen. Rubio has always preferred solving immigration reform with piecemeal legislation. The Senate opted to pursue a comprehensive bill, and he joined that effort because he wanted to influence the policy that passed the Senate," Rubio's spokesman, Alex Conant, said Monday in explaining Rubio's backing for limited measures.
Since 68 Democrats and Republicans joined together to pass the Senate bill in June, opponents and many conservatives have stepped up their pressure against any immigration legislation, based not only on their principle opposition but their unwillingness to deliver on Obama's top, second-term domestic agenda issue.
The recent budget fight only inflamed conservative GOP feelings toward Obama.
Most House Republicans reject a comprehensive approach and many question offering citizenship to people who broke U.S. immigration laws to be in this country. The House Judiciary Committee has moved forward with individual, single-issue immigration bills.