Marco Rubio: Tea Party darling. Or is he?
Wednesday night at the St. Lucie County Lincoln Day Dinner - an annual fundraising event for the Republican Party - Rubio faced the fury of some in the Tea Party, as they ripped him for helping to spearhead immigration reform.
Without them Rubio might not be here: a US senator at the front of the national immigration reform debate.
But as he spoke inside - to St. Lucie County Republicans - around two dozen protesters outside spoke too.
"He was the Tea Party darling. Until he went to DC and played us," said Christine Timmon, a Tea Party supporter.
"We put him into office and this is not what he promised us," said another.
The bill that Rubio helped write calls for a pathway to citizenship for law-abiding and taxpaying illegals.
It also increases border security and gives permanent residency to children of illegal aliens.
"What about the twenty, to twenty-two million American workers who can't find a full-time job?" said David Caulkett of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement.
But Rubio says that leaving things the way they are is defacto amnesty anyway, and argues that not shoring up borders will lead to twice as big a problem in ten years.
Still, he says the bill needs the confidence of the American people, and that the Tea Party is part of that.
"The conservative case for it is that conservatism has always been about solving problems," said Rubio. "If we do nothing you have ceded the issue over to Barack Obama and the Democrats."
Rubio admits the bill as written wouldn't pass the more-conservative House.
But amendments will be offered - and was adamant that vocal opposition, even from his base, won't stop his push.
"They have a right to speak out in America," said Rubio. "The bottom line is we have an illegal immigration problem that needs to be fixed."
Caulkett says any plans Rubio MIGHT have for 2016 hang in the balance.
"Look what happened to the demise of Mel Martinez," said Caulkett. "The same thing could happen to Senator Rubio. We're furious about this."
But politics makes strange bedfellows.
Thursday, a rally in support of Rubio is being held at his office in Palm Beach Gardens.
The ralliers want to thank him for supporting immigration reform.
And who's holding the rally?
OFA - Organizing for America - the Obama campaign team.
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