Rubio: 'We can't let' DHS shut down

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Sen. Marco RubioMarco RubioRubio: GOP Congress could go in different direction than Trump Poll: Clinton holds 4-point lead in Florida Republicans, it's time to stop asking 'What would Reagan do?' MORE (R-Fla.) on Wednesday stressed the need to fund the Department of Homeland Security before a partial shutdown begins on Feb. 28.

“We have to fund Homeland Security,” Rubio said at a press conference in Las Vegas, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “We can’t let Homeland Security shut down.”

Rubio suggested that Republicans should find another path forward for funding the DHS now that Senate Democrats are blocking legislation that would roll back President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Still, Rubio didn’t explicitly call for the “clean” spending bill that Senate Democrats are demanding.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant later clarified the senator’s remarks. “Marco will not support a DHS funding bill that does not repeal the President's executive order,” he said.

The comments by the potential 2016 presidential contender came after he signed copies of his new book, American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone.

Pro-immigration activists confronted Rubio at the event, the Review-Journal said, and one person asked why he opposes Obama’s 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that defers deportations for people who came to the United States illegally as children.

“You can do it by passing a law,” Rubio said. “You can’t just do it by executive order. … You should read my book. It talks about how we can do it.”

Rubio said last summer that DACA should end.

The Senate is at an impasse over a 2015 DHS spending bill because of provisions House Republicans attached that would reverse Obama’s immigration actions from 2011, 2012 and 2014. The bill passed the House in January, but Senate Democrats have repeatedly blocked it from coming up for debate.

The fight over the bill took a surprise turn on Monday, when a federal judge in Texas temporarily halted the new immigration orders that Obama announced in November. The DHS, as a result, had to freeze its plans to implement the orders on Wednesday.

Republicans hailed the ruling as a big win, with some calling it evidence that Democrats should end their filibuster of the bill.

Lawmakers are away from Washington and will only have four legislative left next week to pass a new Homeland Security spending bill before the Feb. 28 deadline.

—This story was updated at 8:26 p.m.