The unfolding narrative on immigration reform is easy to explain at this point. There is bipartisan consensus around revamping a broken immigration system and the White House is working with Congress to get it done.
But not so fast, says Senator Marco Rubio’s camp, which contends that the White House has not reached out to Republicans to help craft legislation.
“Contrary to what the [White House chief of staff] said on the Sunday shows, President Obama and the White House staff are not working with Republicans on immigration reform,” said Rubio spokesman, Alex Conant. “Senator Rubio’s office has never discussed immigration policy with anyone in the White House. ”
White House press secretary Jay Carney dismissed Conant’s assertions.
“We have been in contact with everybody involved in this effort on Capitol Hill,” he told reporters at a daily briefing.
As a member of the high-profile “Gang of 8” Senators working to craft bipartisan legislation and because he is seen as the next generation of Republican leadership, Rubio’s stature has risen on immigration reform and after his response to the president’s State of the Union address.
This past weekend, Rubio blasted a leaked Obama administration draft immigration bill, calling it “dead on arrival.”
“If actually proposed, the president’s bill would be dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come,” Rubio said in a statement.
A White House official told NBC Latino the administration did not purposely leak the draft bill and in an appearance on Meet the Press, chief of staff Denis McDonough said the administration was involved in talks on immigration.
“We’ll be prepared in the event that the bipartisan talks going on the Hill — which by the way we’re aggressively supporting — if those do not work out, then we’ll have an option we’re ready to put out there,” he said.
A Washington Post columnist floated the idea that Obama’s immigration plan was a decoy to draw fire from Republicans and eventually good for the process. Rubio’s spokesman Conant refuted that line of thinking.
“While I appreciate the valiant search for a silver-lining, the truth is that the White House has injected additional partisanship into an already difficult process, and raised fresh questions about the President’s seriousness about passing reform,” he said