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Marco Rubio Pitches Immigration Reform To Skeptical House GOP

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WASHINGTON -- After Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) gave a pitch on Wednesday for House Republicans to support the Senate "gang of eight" immigration reform efforts, conservatives said they appreciate his attempt to strengthen the bill, but ultimately don't expect to support the upper chamber's legislation.

"We have enough House members at 435, so we really don't need another one," Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) quipped when asked about Rubio's impact on the House's own immigration legislation.

Rubio spoke about legislative plans during a meeting of the House Republican Study Committee, along with fellow gang of eight member Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), immigration reform opponent Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and other lawmakers.

The Florida senator told the House Republicans, as he has said before, that the Senate bill he helped draft needs more border security provisions in order to pass. He said Monday he would vote against the bill if it doesn't toughen its border measures, which are tied to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Rubio's argument has been that without such measures, the bill would fail anyway. But he told reporters after the House meeting that he has no plans to abandon the effort.

"I can tell you, as the bill is currently structured it isn't going to pass in the House," he said.

Flake said he agreed the bill should be strengthened. But when asked whether he, like Rubio, would vote against his bill without amendments, he turned and walked away.

"I don't want to address it," he said.

Rubio was brought on board by the group in part to convince skeptical Republicans -- in the House as well -- to support the overall effort at reform. He is considered to have credibility as a strong conservative, and is newer to the immigration debate than fellow Republicans in the group, such as Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). But some House Republicans downplayed Rubio's role in influencing the GOP in their chamber.

"I don't really think he plays a role in the House, because we're working on our own process," Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said, adding that the Senate and House will continue to move separately.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), one of the more outspoken conservative members of the House, said he didn't trust the White House's intentions on immigration reform. When asked whether he thought Rubio was playing into the Obama administration's plan, Huelskamp was reticent to criticize.

"I think Marco's thought is, they were going to try and do it anyway, so might [as well be] involved in that," he said. "But at the end of the day, it's really become very divisive for the Republican Party."

Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) emerged from the Wednesday meeting hopeful that conservatives' concerns with the Senate bill had not only been heard, but might even be acted on. Rubio, he said, acknowledged there is room for improvements in the Senate bill.

"Even the senators that were here recognize that the Senate bill still needs improvement," Scalise told reporters after the meeting. "I think it was a good dialogue not just from the senators talking about the things they're working on, but hearing from us in the House and our concerns. Hopefully some of those will get incorporated into the Senate bill to improve it."

"But ultimately the House has taken its own approach, and I think the House ought to produce its own product, and that's being done right now," he added.

Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), whose bipartisan immigration group reportedly has hit a roadblock again, said after the meeting that he doesn't expect the House to pass the Senate bill, regardless of whether additional border security measures are added by Rubio.

"I don't know that you can say they didn't want any part of the Senate bill, I just don't think they like the Senate bill as a whole," he told reporters of House Republican opposition. "But I think there's a lot of parts of the Senate bill that they would be okay with."

Still, he said Rubio is right to push for more border provisions.

"I don't think you get anything out of the Senate without strong border security, and we definitely don't get anything out of the House without strong border security," he said. "So whatever he can do in the Senate to actually beef up border security, it's actually better for his body."

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