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Paul not ready to embrace Rubio, Gang of Eight immigration legislation

 

Despite his stated support for comprehensive-immigration reform, Rand Paul, R-Ky., is not fully on board with Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and the Gang of Eight’s immigration attempt.

“Generally, I am for immigration reform. It’s not that I’m going to be for anything with no rules, though,” the Kentucky senator told reporters at a breakfast Wednesday hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Related: As Senate's immigration 'Gang' releases text, House group speaks up

Paul said that he has not studied the details of the proposal yet, but despite the legislation’s various new border-security requirements, he’s not completely convinced. Paul said he is supportive of a path to citizenship, but not a new, separate, or special one for the millions of people in the United States illegally. He was skeptical that there was not what he called a “new pathway” for citizenship in the legislation.

“I don’t want a new pathway,” Paul said, noting that the “same pathway” would give a “better chance of passing immigration reform.” He added, "It’s important for conservatives that it’s no new pathway to citizenship,” Paul said, proposing that workers get a work visa and go to the back of the line like someone in Mexico City. “Get in the same line."

Paul said that he would insist on immigration legislation going through the House, would have at least one, and up to three or four, amendments to the bill. He wants what he calls “trust but verify,” that would include an annual report to Congress on border security with opinions of governors included that has stats on how many immigrants crossed the border and were returned to their home country. And he wants it voted on by Congress. He also wants to make sure that immigrants with work visas cannot vote and do not get social welfare benefits.

"So in order to get it," Paul said, referring to passage of the legislation, "they need to at least engage with people like me, who want immigration reform."

Early in his talk, Paul also -- unprompted -- brought up Paul Ryan, R-Wis., another possible 2016 rival, when discussing Medicare. But it wasn’t exactly to praise him. He was going through his fixes to Medicare, including raising the eligibility age gradually, means testing benefits and premiums, as well as other options.

“It’s similar to Paul Ryan,” Paul said, “but he doesn’t actually do it.”

Paul’s willingness to attempt to poke holes in the Gang of Eight proposal, something Rubio has been out front on, as well as his subtle criticism of Ryan on Medicare -- and in turn, how to tackle debt and deficits -- shows how Paul might try to carve out space for himself in a 2016 Republican presidential primary, if he decides to run. It’s something he appears to be leaning toward and openly said he is weighing.

“I want to be part of the national debate,” Paul said. “Whether I run or not, to be considering is something that gives me a larger microphone.”

He said he will continue travels to early states, hitting New Hampshire this spring and South Carolina this summer.

“We’re considering it,” Paul said. “We won’t make a decision before 2014.”

Paul accuses Obama of using Newtown families as ‘props’

Paul also weighed in the gun debate. He said he’s firmly against the compromise background-check legislation proposed by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey, deriding it as “window dressing.” And he accused President Barack Obama of using the Newtown families as “props.”

“When I see the fathers and the mothers and them testifying --  and I know they’re coming voluntarily, and they want to come and be part of this debate,” Paul said, “but it still saddens me just to see them, and I think that in some cases the president has used them as props -- and that disappoints me.”

Paul said he does not want to be seen, however, as not caring, but he believes the background check legislation will do nothing to prevent other Newtowns from happening again.

“The face I want to present is that I do care about those kids,” Paul said, adding that he’s supporting Ted Cruz’s, R-Texas, legislation to shift money to support more prosecutions.

“Make sure that the background checks we have are working,” he said, adding that people like the shooter at Sandy Hook are not deterred even by the death penalty, why would they be deterred by stricter background checks? And he claimed 90 percent of crimes committed with a gun are with ones obtained illegally.