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Cantor declines to endorse Rubio’s immigration framework

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on Tuesday declined to endorse the Senate immigration-reform proposal backed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“You know, I really admire Sen. Rubio and the kinds of things he’s standing for,” Cantor said on “CBS This Morning.” “I think he’s moving in the right direction. We’ve got a lot of issues to weigh around this issue of immigration.”

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Cantor was pressed by the host, who asked him if that was a “yes” or a “no” in support of Rubio’s plan.

“We’re a country of immigrants, I believe we’re going in the right direction,” he responded. “We’ve got things that I believe that need to be addressed from border security to worker programs, and we need to address the situation where you’ve got some children in this country that are here because of actions of their parents and know no other place than America as home. So we’ve got a lot of issues and I believe we’ve got to work in expedited fashion to address them, but do so that we are secure as a country of laws and that we can help our economy move forward.”

Rubio, who is part of a bipartisan Senate group that last week unveiled an immigration-reform blueprint, is leading efforts to sell the bill to the GOP's conservative wing. The Senate proposal entails increased security measures at the border and an exhaustive path to citizenship that doesn’t allow illegal immigrants to leap-frog those who have already applied to come to the U.S. legally.

GOP leaders, including Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), have said they hope to act on immigration reform, but rank-and-file House Republicans are skeptical of proposals to grant citizenship, which they see as “amnesty.”

A number of House lawmakers have also been working on immigration reform, with Boehner saying the bipartisan group “basically [has] an agreement” after more than three years of secret talks.

Cantor’s comments come on a day in which he’ll deliver a major policy address at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he hopes to put a kinder face on Republican policies and fully explain how those policies benefit citizens.

“I think it is more about we haven’t explained why we take the positions that we do,” Cantor told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on Tuesday. “I think that’s one of the lessons learned from the last election.

"You know, we believe in self-reliance, we believe in faith in the individual, we believe in accountability of government," Cantor added. "These are the kinds of tried and tested principles of conservatism that I believe make life work for people, and we’ve got to put these ideas forward with proposals so we can say look, we’re coming down on the side of working people and frankly those who are out of work and want a job.”

Immigration reform to attract more high-skilled labor will be one of the issues Cantor is expected to address in his AEI speech.