Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is being criticized by both the right and left for his stance on immigration reform, and, as if things couldn't get any worse, he was labeled a "Republican in name only" Wednesday during a tea party rally on Capitol Hill.
People attending the tea party gathering were there to protest the Senate's comprehensive immigration-reform bill, authored by Rubio and seven other members of the so-called bipartisan Gang of Eight.
But the anger from the crowd was directed more at Rubio than at the bill itself, with some accusing him of selling out his conservative principles and his constituents to side with the Democrats and President Barack Obama on immigration reform, The Huffington Post reported.
Just the mention of Rubio's name, for example, was angrily booed when Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Robert Rector took to the stage to claim that Rubio had not even read his own bill, that critics say is light on border security and heavy on costs to taxpayers.
"I think he's a sell-out. I think he got power-mad," Matthew Bishoff told the Huffington Post. Bishoff, a resident of Ohio, admitted he didn't know much about Rubio before the immigration debate, but that he now thinks the Florida senator is "trying to pair up with Obama."
Another tea party supporter agreed, holding a sign calling Rubio a "CONSERVATIVE RINO," or Republican in name only. On her sign, Houston resident Erin Konkel had drawn a line through "Conservative."
Konkel told the Huffington Post she used to be a fan of Rubio, but now thinks he has abandoned the views that helped get him elected to the Senate because of his work on the immigration measure.
"I believed in him," she said of Rubio. "I thought he was the real deal, but I was wrong."
Some at the rally were angry at Rubio for giving away too much on the immigration bill, saying it would not preclude their support should he become the Republican presidential nominee in 2016.
"You have to take the bad with the good," said Jim Murphy, who traveled to Washington from Lake Gaston, N.C. "So if he were to be the nominee in 2016, yes, I would go to the booth, I would cast my vote for him, although I disagree with him on that issue."
At the same time Rubio was being lambasted on the Capitol grounds, he was being denounced in Florida TV ads for his work on immigration.
According to Politico, the ad campaigns are unconnected, although both oppose the immigration-reform bill in its current form and Rubio's work on it in particular.
Californians for Population Stabilization and the conservative Federation for American Immigration Reform are advertising to pressure Rubio
into abandoning support for the measure.
Jo Wideman, executive director of the California organization, told Politico her environmental group believes Rubio is backing away from his promise to strengthen border security to keep more illegal immigrants from entering the country.
Her group opposes further population growth, and is focusing on the problems immigration poses to land use and crowding.
"The people who are pro-immigration are spending millions and millions," Wideman told Politico. "Why would they want to bring in so many workers when so many Americans are out of work?"
"Rubio is front man for the Republicans on this bill," said Ira Mehlman of the Federation for American Immigration Reform. "Some of the stuff he's been saying on this doesn't add up."
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