The White House praised Republican Sen. Marco Rubio’s proposals for an overhaul of immigration policy and said they “bode well” for bipartisan action early in President Barack Obama’s second term.
Obama “expects to move very quickly on immigration after the inauguration,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters. The president is expected to lay out some principles on the issue in his Feb. 12 State of the Union speech.
“The reports about Sen. Rubio’s ideas bode well for a productive bipartisan debate,” Carney said. “We hope that it signals a change in the Republican approach to this issue, because if we are going to get this done it’s going to take more than just a handful of Republicans working across the aisle.”
The press secretary had been asked about proposals from Rubio—whose name sits near the top of the 2016 field of Republican presidential contenders—to undertake sweeping changes in the way America handles immigration. According to the Wall Street Journal, Rubio backs tightening border controls but making it easier for high-skilled workers and seasonal farm workers to enter the country, and favors giving the estimated 12 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. a path to getting a work permit and, eventually, citizenship.
Can the polarized Congress handle two big issues—immigration reform and proposals to reduce gun violence—simultaneously?
"There is no reason to believe that these kinds of issues can’t be worked on at the same time and you can expect the president to push for both measures—to reduce gun violence and for comprehensive immigration reform—because they are both priorities," Carney said.
Rubio's ideas recall Obama's own proposals—something Carney did not fail to note.
“We are encouraged," Carney said, to find that Rubio's plan "so closely reflects the president's blueprint for reform."
He added that "the president has long called for partners from both sides of the aisle, and he has lamented the absence of partners from the other side of the aisle. It used to be a bipartisan pursuit. He hopes that this augurs well for the future.”
Carney defended the president's decision not to reach out personally (yet) to Rubio. As the reform process proceeds, the press secretary insisted, "it will involve engagement with Democrats and Republicans, and you can expect that that will happen.”
He added: “To my knowledge, Sen. Rubio has yet to put anything on paper or draw up any legislation. We welcome reports of his positions and look forward to working with him and other Republicans in pursuit of comprehensive immigration reform, because it’s the right thing to do for the country, and the president considers it a high priority."