By CHARLES BABINGTON, THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON — Republican Party divisions over immigration, anti-terrorism and other issues are bubbling to the surface just as President Barack Obama shows a new interest in capitalizing on GOP differences.

The latest example played out Thursday on the Senate floor, where two Republican senators rebuked a third – tea party favorite Rand Paul of Kentucky – for his filibuster that challenged U.S. policies for using drones to kill suspected terrorists. Just a few days earlier, other high-profile Republicans had differed on immigration, and a House committee chairman renewed his call for spending cuts that would go much deeper than those now making headlines.

Every case featured past or possibly future presidential candidates. It was a fresh reminder that the party has no clear leader, and no clear road map, after Mitt Romney's November loss to Obama.

The quarrels also underscore the Republican establishment's uneasy relationship with the tea party. That grass-roots movement, born in 2009, pumped new passion into the GOP, but it also fueled unwise Senate nominations that saved several endangered Democrats.

Every party undergoes self-examination and blame-swapping after losing a presidential race. The Republicans' intramural disputes may eventually lead to greater solidarity and popularity.

Some party activists, however, are warily watching Obama launch a new outreach to rank-and-file Republicans, including his Wednesday night dinner with a dozen GOP senators at a posh Washington restaurant.

"The president recognizes the fractures within the Republican Party and is moving to try to take advantage of them with a charm offensive," said GOP pollster Steve Lombardo. Republicans should react carefully, he said, because voters "want to see each side extend an olive branch and work together."

First, however, top Republicans must resolve some of their own differences. And either by choice or trial-and-error, the GOP must decide how closely to align its identity with the tea party movement, whose fiercely small-government philosophy draws relatively low approval ratings in national polls.

Paul, the son of libertarian hero and three-time presidential contender Ron Paul, drew widespread attention this week with a nearly 13-hour Senate filibuster. He demanded assurances from the Obama administration that unmanned aircraft would not be used in the United States to kill terrorism suspects who are U.S. citizens.

Many Republicans say Paul and his father are so libertarian in their outlook that they operate outside the party mainstream. But Paul's filibuster drew active support from several tea party-leaning senators, including Marco Rubio of Florida, who possibly could vie with Paul and others for the 2016 presidential nomination. Also helping with the filibuster were more traditional Republican senators such as John Cornyn of Texas and John Thune of South Dakota.

That sharpened the drama Thursday, when Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina claimed the Senate floor to chide Paul and to defend the administration's drone policies.

McCain, the party's 2008 presidential nominee, and Graham are frequent guests on national talk shows. They rank among the party's best-known members, and they attended Obama's dinner Wednesday.

Their critiques of Paul's actions were acidic at times. McCain read approvingly from a Wall Street Journal editorial titled "Rand Paul's Drone Rant." McCain said Paul's reasoning did not match his "showmanship."

McCain and Graham are among pro-military Republicans unhappy with a tea-party-backed push to cut spending across the board, including in the Pentagon. The recently enacted "sequester" cuts were seen as a triumph for conservatives, especially in the House, who place their highest priority on refusing to raise income taxes on anyone, even if it means reducing military spending.

These House Republicans, led by 2012 vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, now promise to pass a 10-year budget plan that will call for much deeper spending cuts, including significant changes to Medicare.

The move carries risks, say moderate Republicans. They cite polls showing substantial public support for a balance of tax increases and spending cuts to tame the deficit.

A survey by the centrist Republican Main Street group found that most Americans feel the Republican Party chiefly "looks out for rich guys," said the organization's president, Steve LaTourette. The former Ohio congressman said the party's self-examination, on balance, is healthy and essential, and he thinks Republicans outflanked Democrats in the sequester showdown.

Virginia-based Republican consultant Chris LaCivita said the intraparty debate is healthy and should reassure voters the GOP is vigorous and transparent.

Obama is appealing to Graham and other Republicans who say new taxes on the rich might be possible if Democrats agree to tackle the long-term funding problems of Medicare and Social Security. Most Republican leaders adamantly oppose any increases in income taxes.

Other internal debates that Republicans must resolve include changes to immigration laws. Romney and other GOP candidates did poorly among Hispanic voters, many of whom see the party's immigration policies as a slap at all Latinos.

Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, is heading a Republican effort to craft immigration legislation to counter Obama's proposals.

Another prominent Republican, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, created a stir this week by saying he did not support a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, even if they have lived peacefully for years in the United States. Bush, whose father and brother were presidents, tried to soften the comments later, but they served to remind everyone that Republicans face difficult debates over immigration.

The 2016 presidential race could possibly attract Bush, Rubio, Ryan, Paul, Thune and numerous other Republicans, including Govs. Chris Christie of New Jersey and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.

The 2012 Republican primary featured exhaustive and often unwieldy debates. Catering to hard-core conservatives who dominate primaries, Romney and his rivals veered to the right on many issues, a process that many feel hurt Romney among centrist voters in the general election against Obama.

With tea party-backed House Republicans thus far dominating the tax-and-spending debate, it's unclear whether the GOP can avoid similar clashes in 2016. Before it confronts that question, however, the party must move closer to consensus and intraparty peace over immigration, anti-terrorism and other matters.

This week's back and forth in the Senate indicates the soul-searching will go on a while longer.

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  • The Naturalization Act of 1790

    The Naturalization Act of 1790 was our country's first set of laws dealing with citizenship. Applicants had to be "<a href="http://rs6.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=llsl&fileName=001/llsl001.db&recNum=226 " target="_hplink">a free white person</a>" of "good moral character." This excluded indentured servants and slaves. Good moral character was substantiated by establishing residence for at least one year in the state from where he was applying, and at least two years of residence in the country. The Naturalization Act of 1795 would extend that requirement to five years, and is still standard today.

  • The Fourteenth Amendment, 1868

    A Reconstruction Amendment that was added to the U.S. Constitution following the Civil War, the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment establishes for the first time that children born on U.S. soil would be conferred U.S. citizenship regardless of their parent's citizenship status, race, or place of birth. Last year, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) introduced the <a href="http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/hr140 " target="_hplink">Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011</a> to Congress, and challenged this. The bill would require that at least one parent be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident for a child to be granted citizenship. According to the <a href="http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-h140/text " target="_hplink">bill's text</a>, the Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011 would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, and "clarify those classes of individuals born in the United States who are nationals and citizens of the United States at birth." Prior to this, Rep. Nathan Deal (R-GA) <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/05/26/nathan-deal-georgia-lawma_n_207485.html " target="_hplink">introduced</a> a similar <a href="http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h1868/show" target="_hplink">bill</a> in 2009.

  • The Naturalization Act of 1870

    The Naturalization Act of 1870<a href="http://thepoliticsofimmigration.org/pages/chronology.htm " target="_hplink"> explicitly extended</a> naturalization laws to "aliens of African nativity and persons of African descent." This meant that for the first time, African-American children would be conferred citizenship upon birth. Asian immigrants and other people of color are excluded per the Naturalization Acts of 1790 and 1795.

  • The Page Act of 1875

    Named after Republican Representative Horace F. Page, this is the first U.S. federal immigration law to explicitly prohibit the immigration of a particular group: persons of Asian descent. Primarily meant to limit Chinese immigrant labor and prostitution, the Page Act prohibited the immigration of: (1) contracted labor from "China, Japan, or any Oriental country" that was not "free and voluntary," (2) Chinese prostitution and (3) criminals and women who would engage in prostitution. Ultimately, the <a href="http://www.uchastings.edu/racism-race/pageact.html " target="_hplink">Page Act</a> severely <a href="http://immigration-online.org/228-page-act-united-states-1875.html " target="_hplink">restricted</a> the immigration of Asian women. Only 136 of the the nearly 40,000 Chinese immigrants who arrived in the months before the bill's enforcement were women. And, it would pave the way for the Chinese Exclusion Act. In this picture, Michael Lin, chair of the 1882 Project, a coalition of rights groups seeking a statement of regret over that year's Chinese Exclusion Act, speaks on May 26, 2011 in Washington, DC, at the US House of Representatives in front of a reproduction of a 19th-century sign that aimed at rousing up sentiment against Chinese Americans. Lawmakers introduced a bill that would offer an official statement of regret for the act, which banned further immigration of Chinese to the United States and ended citizenship rights for ethnic Chinese. (AFP PHOTO/SHAUN TANDON).

  • The Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882

    Signed by President Chester A. Arthur, the <a href="http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/seven/chinxact.htm " target="_hplink">Chinese Exclusion Act</a> was the first federal immigration law to prohibit immigration on the basis of race. The bill barred all Chinese laborers, skilled and unskilled, from immigrating to the U.S. for ten years. It was made permanent by 1903, and was not lifted until the 1943 Magnuson Act. The 1898 Supreme Court <a href="http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/exclusion.html " target="_hplink">decision</a> in <em>United States v. Wong Kim Ark</em> finally extended naturalization laws to persons of Chinese descent by ruling that anyone born in the United States was indeed a U.S. citizen. This editorial cartoon from 1882 shows a Chinese man being excluded from entry to the "Golden Gate of Liberty." The sign next to the iron door reads, "Notice--Communist, Nihilist, Socialist, Fenian & Hoodlum welcome. But no admittance to Chinamen." At the bottom, the caption reads, "THE ONLY ONE BARRED OUT. Enlightened American Statesman--'We must draw the line <em>somewhere</em>, you know.'" (Image Source: Frank Leslie's illustrated newspaper, vol. 54 (1882 April 1), p. 96. [Public domain], via <a href="http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_only_one_barred_out_cph.3b48680.jpg" target="_hplink">Wikimedia Commons</a>).

  • The Naturalization Act of 1906

    The Naturalization Act of 1906 further <a href="http://www.understandingrace.org/history/gov/eastern_southern_immigration.html" target="_hplink">defined</a> the naturalization process: the ability to speak English was made a <a href="http://www.enotes.com/topic/Naturalization_Act_of_1906" target="_hplink">requisite</a> for immigrants to adjust their status.

  • The Immigration Act of 1924

    U.S. President Coolidge signed this U.S. federal <a href="http://history.state.gov/milestones/1921-1936/ImmigrationAct " target="_hplink">bill</a> into law. It capped the number of immigrants who could be admitted entry to the U.S. and barred immigration of persons who were not eligible for naturalization. And, as the Naturalization Act of 1790 required, an immigrant had to be white in order to naturalize. The quotas varied by country. Image Source: Flickr Creative Commons, <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/nycmarines/6306315902/" target="_hplink">NYCMarines</a>.

  • The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 (The McCarran-Walter Act)

    The <a href="https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:zwaVG82lZisJ:www-rohan.sdsu.edu/dept/polsciwb/brianl/docs/1952McCarranWaltersAct.pdf+&hl=en&gl=us&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjEwx76FIBTixZAfyncZz-1CSuSeciv5qB6vvWTrUfW58XRpXq8zkpnI57XSuuG5Bu-WSySGbEhxYvZxP7y6qDQuOsDhgDa6qUqUaJ8F4imTzKJsVtppHc_-eew2dK6vGhoIUZs&sig=AHIEtbTNQ5GFiNMVS-xyThq8VVSj_gG9KA " target="_hplink">McCarran-Walter Act</a> kept up the controversial Immigration Act of 1924, but <a href="http://history.state.gov/milestones/1945-1952/ImmigrationAct" target="_hplink">formally</a> ended Asian exclusion.

  • Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965

    When President Lyndon Johnson signed the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, it <a href="http://library.uwb.edu/guides/USimmigration/1965_immigration_and_nationality_act.html" target="_hplink">abolished</a> the quota system that favored immigration from Europe and limited immigration from Asia and South America.

  • Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996

    The 1996 <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/PUBLAW/HTML/PUBLAW/0-0-0-10948.html " target="_hplink">Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act</a> (IIRIRA) is a piece of legislation that <a href="http://library.uwb.edu/guides/usimmigration/1996_illegal_immigration_reform_and_immigrant_responsibility_act.html " target="_hplink">defined</a> an array of issues to do with legal and illegal immigration -- from outlining how border patrol agents should administer visa processing, to the minutiae of how to handle deportation proceedings -- IIRIRA established enforcement and patrolling practices.