Rubio threatens to vote against immigration bill

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Tuesday threatened to vote against the Gang of Eight immigration bill he helped draft unless there are further changes to the legislation.

In an interview with conservative radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt, Rubio said more needed to be done to “strengthen the border security parts of this bill so that they’re stronger.”

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Asked if he would still back the bill if amendments to tighten border security failed, Rubio said “no.”

“Well, I think if those amendments don’t pass, then I think we’ve got a bill that isn’t going to become law, and I think we’re wasting our time. So the answer is no,” he added.

Rubio is one of eight senators who drafted the bipartisan Senate immigration deal that would provide a pathway for illegal immigrants already in the country, crack down on border security and create a new guest worker program.

But GOP opposition to the citizenship pathway, which many conservatives view as “amnesty,” has placed the Tea Party favorite in a difficult spot. Rubio’s continued support is seen as crucial to helping rally other conservative lawmakers to back the bill.

On Monday, Rubio warned that the bill still did not have the 60 votes needed, contradicting his Gang of Eight colleagues Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) who said they hoped to win 70 votes, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) who said he believed he had the numbers to pass the bill.

Schumer on Sunday said that passing the bill with a commanding majority in the upper chamber could pressure GOP leaders in the House to take up the Senate bill.

A bipartisan House group is also working on its own proposal, but immigration reform faces a tougher fight amid opposition from many GOP lawmakers. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) has also said he will consider immigration reform on a piecemeal basis, leading to concerns from reform advocates that legislation will falter in the House.