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Immigration bill gets Rubio's OK

| Tuesday, June 25, 2013, 8:18 p.m.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks with The Associated Press in his Capitol Hill office on Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013, in Washington. Rubio, once a Tea Party darling, has been denounced by members of the party for his support of an immigration overhaul.

WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, shifting his tone on the immigration bill he helped to write, said on Tuesday he is now fully satisfied that the measure will do what it takes to secure the southern border with Mexico.

Rubio, a potential presidential contender and the most high-profile Republican backer of immigration reform, had irked supporters of the Senate immigration bill with public comments in which he consistently said the legislation was not tough enough on border enforcement.

The Florida lawmaker was part of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators that in April announced the bill that would provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants while beefing up border security and starting guest worker programs for high- and low-skilled workers.

The Senate measure appears headed for passage this week, with supporters expecting a strong showing of about 70 votes in favor of it. An amendment on border security crafted by a small group of Republicans has helped to persuade several in the party to give their backing to the bill.

At a cost of $46 billion, the amendment would double the number of agents on the southern border to about 40,000 and provide more high-tech surveillance equipment.

“This amendment basically now puts into place virtually everything people have been asking me to do about immigration enforcement since I began talking about this issue,” Rubio told a convention of the American Society of News Editors. “I think we've run out of things we can to do to support — to improve the border.”

In a series of television and radio interviews during the past two months, Rubio had said he did not think the bill could get a sufficient number of Republican votes needed for passage without stronger border language and that his own vote depended on such changes.

Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, said that while the senator is now satisfied with the border language in the bill, he still wants votes on some other changes, including an amendment under discussion that would further bolster the system employers use to verify workers' legal status.

Passage of the immigration bill in the Democrat-led Senate would send the measure to the Republican-dominated House of Representatives, where it faces a much tougher sell. Many conservatives have denounced the plans to give legal status to the undocumented as “amnesty.”

Asked about House Speaker John Boehner's strategy for handling the immigration issue in that chamber, Rubio said it is up to House lawmakers to determine the course they want to take.

But he added: “I think we have a good piece of legislation they should take a look at. There are a lot of good ideas that they should adopt.”

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