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Team Rubio: White House claim on immigration talks flatly untrue

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York,Politics Digest

There’s no doubt Sen. Marco Rubio was unhappy when the White House leaked its immigration proposal; that much was clear when Rubio described the plan’s prospects, should Obama actual submit it to Congress, as “dead on arrival.”

But now, with Rubio traveling in the Mideast during the President’s Day recess, a spokesman for the senator says a claim made by new White House chief of staff Denis McDonough is flatly untrue.

The dispute involves whether President Obama and his aides have consulted with congressional Republicans on immigration reform plans.  There’s no dispute that Obama, who has discussed the issue with the Democratic members of the Gang of Eight, has not talked with Rubio or the other Republican members of the group.  But appearing on television Sunday, McDonough claimed there was consultation going on among staff members.

McDonough made the statement in an exchange with ABC’s Jonathan Karl.  “How could the White House be working on a draft, even if it’s a White House draft, without at least talking to Republicans about it?” Karl asked.  “I mean, has the president even met with Marco Rubio yet on immigration?

“Well, we’re talking with all the parties through the Gang of Eight effort in the Senate,” McDonough answered.

“[Rubio] says there’s been no consultation,” said Karl.

“We’ve been working with all the members up there,” McDonough responded.  “We have our staff working this very aggressively with their staffs and with the members. And we’re working this very aggressively, as you’d think we would with such a high priority for the country.”

Not true, said Rubio spokesman Alex Conant Tuesday.  “Contrary to what the White House chief of staff said on the Sunday shows,” Conant said in a statement, “President Obama and the White House staff are not working with Republicans on immigration reform. Senator Rubio’s office has never discussed immigration policy with anyone in the White House.”

That’s a pretty clear denial of McDonough’s claim.  Conant wasn’t really protesting — he added, “That’s fine with us – we actually think Congress should write the policy; not the White House.”  But there’s no doubt Rubio wants everyone to know that Obama released his plan without consulting Rubio himself, or anyone in his office.

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