Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) fired back at his upper chamber colleague and GOP presidential rival, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), today at the Republican Party of Florida’s Sunshine Summit in the latest salvo of their immigration battle this week.
In New Hampshire on Wednesday night, Cruz told reporters, “It is not complicated that on the seminal fight over amnesty in Congress, the Gang of Eight bill that was the brainchild of Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama, that would have granted amnesty to 12 million people here illegally, that I stood with the American people and led the fight to defeat it in the United States Congress.”
“In my view, if Republicans nominate for president a candidate who supports amnesty, we will have given up one of the major distinctions with Hillary Clinton and we will lose the general election. That is a path to losing,” Cruz added.
“And part of the reason the debate last night was so productive is you started to see clear, meaningful policy distinctions, not just between what people say on the campaign trail. Talk’s cheap. But between their records. When the fight was being fought, where did you stand? That speaks volumes about who you are and where you will stand in the future. And we’re entering the phase now in the presidential race where primary voters are starting to examine the records of the candidates.”
After Rubio suggested they held similar views on immigration reform, Cruz said on Mike Gallagher’s radio show that he laughed out loud.
“That’s like Obama saying my position is the same as his on Obamacare. That’s like Ayatollah Khamenei saying my position is the same as his on the Iranian nuclear deal,” Cruz said. “It is laughingly, blazingly, on its face, false.”
Rubio said at a Sunshine Summit press conference today that he’s “puzzled and quite frankly surprised” by Cruz’s attacks over immigration, “since Ted’s position on immigration is not much different than mine.”
“He is a supporter of legalizing people that are in this country illegally. If he’s changed that position, then he certainly has a right to change his position on that issue, but he should be clear about that,” Rubio said.
Cruz offered an amendment to the 2013 Gang of Eight bill that would have allowed a path legalization for illegal immigrants in the country stopping short of citizenship. He argued that the immigration reform bill would fail in the House without his amendment. “I don’t want immigration reform to fail,” Cruz said at the time. “I want immigration reform to pass. And so I would urge people of good faith on both sides of the aisle, if the objective is to pass common sense immigration reform that secures the borders, that improves legal immigration, and that allows those who are here illegally to come in out of the shadows, then we should look for areas of bipartisan agreement and compromise to come together.”
Rubio added today that on other issues regarding immigration, Cruz has “gone much further than I have.”
“He wanted to double the number of green cards. He wanted a 500 percent increase on the number of H-1B visas,” Rubio said, noting that Cruz “clearly supported an amendment, and he bragged about how this amendment would bring people out of the shadows and how it would legalize people that are in this country illegally.”
Cruz insisted earlier on radio that “the H1-B visa program will not be used to replace American workers.”
“So everybody running for president on the Republican side, in one way or shape, supports some form or fashion the legalization of people that are in this country illegally,” Rubio said. “The debate is what’s the most responsible way to do that – and I’ve outlined it. It begins with border security and ensuring illegal immigration is under control. The second step would be to modernize our legal immigration system. And then, we can address that issue in a reasonable and responsible way.”
Cruz didn’t take shots at Rubio over immigration in front of the Rubio-friendly Florida GOP crowd, but had a separate immigration event later in the afternoon.
“The reality is that months after that amendment was offered, Senator Cruz was still talking about this as his approach,” Rubio said. “…And he made clear that he believed, that in fact, that amendment should have been something that was adopted. He, in fact, bragged about the fact that he did not undermine the pathway to legalization for people that were in this country illegally.”