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Rubio, Durbin Open to Tackling Immigration

But Any Legislation Crafted by the Republican, Democrat Faces Long Odds

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Some Democrats are wary of Sen. Marco Rubio’s sincerity in pursuing immigration reform, seeing the situation as him trying to burnish his reputation among Hispanics in case presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney chooses Rubio as his running mate.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-lll.) have both expressed interest in working together on a bill to help the children of illegal immigrants, but the political climate makes any possible deal a long shot.

“Sen. Durbin, as I have said consistently, is someone who is looking for a solution not a political talking point,” Rubio said last week.

Durbin, known for making impassioned Senate floor speeches about high-achieving students brought to the United States as children whose futures are jeopardized by their immigration status, has spent the past 11 years pushing legislation establishing a path to citizenship for such people, known as the DREAM Act.

“I understand he prefers his bill, but ultimately, from everything I have dealt with him on, he is somebody who has a legitimate interest in finding a solution, and I think if we can show a path to getting something like this done, he would be a willing partner, at least I am hopeful,” said Rubio, who is working on his own proposal.

Durbin and other Senate Democratic leaders, including Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.), are open to working with Rubio, but they want to see the legislation before opining on it, aides said.

“We want to see what he is proposing in writing,” Durbin said. “I am assuming that he is approaching this in good faith, and I believe he wants to help. So I am open to any bipartisan effort.”

Rubio has been reaching out recently to interested parties, including the House Congressional Hispanic Caucus, advocacy groups and others, though he has not met formally with Durbin. However, more meetings are expected after the recess, Rubio’s office said.

Some Democrats are skeptical of Rubio’s efforts and see his bill as an attempt by Republicans to try to curry favor with Latino voters as the GOP presidential primary winds down.

Some also see it as him trying to burnish his reputation among Hispanics in case presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney chooses Rubio as his running mate.

“I’ve looked at his ideas, and at this point, I don’t know if it’s a political lifeline or something that seriously should be considered,” said Rep. Ed Pastor (D-Ariz.), who added that it is unclear, at best, whether such legislation could get through either chamber.

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who once worked with the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) on immigration reform legislation, said he’s encouraged by Rubio’s plan but wants to see more details.

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