By Cameron Joseph - 12/05/12 03:19 PM EST
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Wednesday put the odds at “more than 50-50” that broad immigration reforms pass the next Congress.
Rubio said he is "really hopeful" that immigration reform can be completed, and said there's consensus on many of the issues.
"I think it needs to be dealt with comprehensively, but not in a comprehensive bill — in a comprehensive package of bills," he said at a breakfast sponsored by Politico.
The Florida senator, who is seen as a possible presidential candidate in 2016, said immigration policy should be dealt with in a series of bills that deal with specific issues like border security, temporary worker programs, the E-Verify system for employers and the legal status of undocumented immigrants.
He argued that it would be "not easy, but a lot easier" to deal with giving some legal standing to illegal immigrants if border security were addressed first.
Rubio said he had "no idea" if he would run or not and would decide in "a few years." He said Democrats in 2012 had done a much better job with their voter outreach programs.
"Whoever has the high ground on technology is going to win both in warfare and in politics and we can never let that happen again," he said.
Rubio said Republicans need to change how they talk about illegal immigrants.
"You're not talking about a plague of locusts, you're talking about people, real human beings," he said.
On the “fiscal cliff,” Rubio warned that the government is "on the verge of doing some significant and lasting damage" to the U.S. economy, and said he would vote against "any plan that hurts growth" when asked whether he'd oppose a deal that raised taxes on wealthy families.
"I just think the No. 1 issue is to grow the economy. It's not about taxes," he said, arguing the "only way" to find the revenue necessary to pay down the debt is through "rapid economic growth."
But he predicted there would be a deal to resolve the fiscal challenges before the end of the year.
"I think something will happen. I do. I believe we'll avoid this. I just think there's too much at stake," he said, saying that when "the cameras are off and people are being people and not just senators on television" they could get together to strike a deal.
The senator recently caused a stir when he declined to say how old the Earth is, drawing charges from the left that he denies science. He sought to clarify those remarks on Wednesday.
“There is no scientific debate on the age of the Earth, it is about four and a half billion years old," he said, continuing on to say that "is not inconsistent" with the teachings of his faith.