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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio facing test of will as another Florida protest planned over his immigration bill

30

April

She was one of his loudest converts, selling underdog U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio across the conservative airwaves of South Florida.

Today radio host Joyce Kaufman calls Rubio a "fraud" and "Sen. Amnestyman."

It was never going to be easy for Rubio to step into the immigration debate, but the release of the 844-page bill he helped write is doing little to counter the opposition.

Kaufman is promoting a protest against Rubio Wednesday when he speaks at the St. Lucie County Lincoln Day Dinner. It's the second one against Rubio, and it comes as conservatives outside Florida are finding fault with their hero and his signature legislative effort.

"Marco Rubio, you need to run -- but not in 2016. Run now. Today. Quickly," Kurt Schlichter wrote Monday on Townhall.com. "Run away, Marco, run as fast as you can. Run away from the electoral Hiroshima that is this immigration reform bill. It is a fraud and a scam, and we know it's a fraud and a scam, and you telling us from every mic and every camera you can get in front of that it's not a fraud and a scam is making us wonder just what the hell is going on with you."

The feeling is growing. The New York Times this morning has a front-page story about the divide between Jim DeMint amd his "protégé" Rubio. In Florida, Sarasota GOP Chairman Joe Gruters dismissed the Senate bill as "amnesty first." Conservative blogs are full of criticism.

In a floor speech last week, Rubio flashed with irritation and challenged critics to offer ways to improve the legislation. He has allies in Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, Grover Norquist and other bold-face names who argue the immigration problem needs to be addressed for the GOP to appeal to a wider audience.

But Rubio, 41, is being tested like never before.

Kaufman on her website has posted interviews with Rubio before he was elected, suggesting he has changed his tune. In a June 23, 2009, show Kaufman put him on defensive for the failure of several crackdown bills that failed to advance the House while Rubio was speaker.

"It's important to point out that those bills that people said that didn't pass when I was speaker, they didn't pass didn't pass this year either, and I wasn't the speaker this year," Rubio said.

"I assure you that people have scoured the public records to find a single comment from me that shows that at any time have I have been in favor of amnesty. It's not because I'm against 13 million human beings that are in this country illegally. It's because I believe that to give people blanket amnesty when they enter in this country illegally would discourage and undermine legal immigration, which I think properly managed is a great asset for America."

Nearly four years later, Rubio argues that he's still against "blanket" amnesty. People in the country illegally will have to pay fines, pass a criminal background check and wait at least 13 years to become citizens. 

UPDATE: Not everyone would have to wait 13 years; Dreamers and agricultural workers would be on a faster pathway.

[Last modified: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 1:51pm]

    

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