A lot of people are noticing that Marco Rubio's immigration reform plan has a lot in common with President Obama's immigration reform plan, which Rubio denounced as "half-baked." This is not good for Rubio, who is almost certainly running for president in 2016 (if you need further evidence, check out the tour of the Middle East he's on right now) and would need to keep conservative voters happy to make it through the primary. So Rubio's office is insisting the two plans are not alike at all — and their offices haven't even spoken.
Rubio spokesman Alex Conant emailed reporters Tuesday to say Rubio's staff "spent the last few hours going through" Obama's plan and "have found major differences between what the President is proposing and what Sen. Rubio and the bipartisan group of Senators have agreed to." Obama's plan doesn't have "a permanent solution" because there's no guest-worker program, and there's no requirement that stronger border security come first before a path to citizenship opens up. But the White House plan, leaked to USA Today, remains incomplete. And while it doesn't include a trigger, the White House has indicated it'd be okay with one.
At first it seemed like Rubio would have preferred to get a little closer to Obama on his signature issue. On Sunday, he condemned Obama for not reaching out to the "gang of eight" senators working on immigration reform. "It’s a mistake for the White House to draft immigration legislation without seeking input from Republican members of Congress," Rubio said. On Tuesday, Conant tweaked that message a little bit:
"Senator Rubio’s office has never discussed immigration policy with anyone in the White House... To be clear: That’s fine with us – we actually think Congress should write the policy; not the White House. But an honest question: If the Obama Administration is serious about drafting & passing its own immigration reform, why wouldn’t they seek input from any Republicans whose support they’ll need?"
So Obama is unserious for not talking to Rubio, but Rubio prefers it that way. You can understand the tension between wanting to look like a very serious power player being courted by the White House and not wanting to look like you agree with Obama on anything.
But the White House wouldn't let Rubio slip away so easily. "We have been in contact with everybody involved in this effort on Capitol Hill," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a briefing Tuesday. Later, a "senior administration official" told reporters that White House staff had met with the staff of the entire "gang of eight" senators who are working on immigration reform — including a Rubio staffer. Conant took to Twitter to clarify again: "We double checked... WH never asked for our input. They sent agency officials to brief gang of 8, but didn't ask for input or discuss policy," he tweeted. It's not clear if Rubio himself prefers it that way.