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'Gang of 8' Soldiers On After Budget Split

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
A spokesman for Rubio, above, said the senator has long opposed the idea of allowing undocumented immigrants who gain legal status from getting federal benefits, and the bill the “gang of eight” is working on is expected to reflect that.

The immigration group is working on providing a way for undocumented immigrants to earn legal status through a series of steps.

In an interview with Rush Limbaugh in late January, Rubio made the case against opening federal benefits to newly legalized immigrants — especially under the Affordable Care Act —because it would be cost-prohibitive.

“According to the law today, if you are a lawfully present in the country but you are not a green card holder, you do not qualify for any federal benefits. That’s existing law,” Rubio explained. “And so that means that the folks that are gonna be in this probationary stage that’s in our principles, they don’t qualify for any federal benefits except for one, Obamacare. Obamacare is the only federal benefit where you qualify for it, not because you have a green card but only because you’re lawfully present. That issue needs to be resolved because if Obamacare is available to 11 million people, it blows a hole in our budget and makes this bill undoable. That’s one of the major issues we’re gonna have to confront.”

The president urged Congress to pick up the pace Monday on passing a comprehensive immigration overhaul.

“I expect the debate to begin next month,” Obama said at a naturalization ceremony. “I want to sign that bill into law as soon as possible.”

“We are making progress, but we’ve got to finish the job because this issue is not new,” Obama said. “Everyone pretty much knows what’s broken; everybody knows how to fix it. We’ve all proposed solutions, and we’ve got a lot of white papers and, you know, studies, and we’ve just got, at this point, to work up the political courage to do what’s required to be done.”

The president’s message was meant to spur and encourage the Senate group’s efforts, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

“For the last couple of months we have seen a bipartisan group of [senators] working to try to come together around a compromise to reform our broken immigration system,” Earnest said, adding that the “White House has been engaged in the effort.

“We are encouraged that this bipartisan group seems to be making progress and we want to support that progress,” Earnest said. “We are going to reserve judgment on the final product until its presented, but we are pleased that they say they are on track to present it shortly after they return from their Easter recess.”

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