Nightly News   |  April 14, 2013

Senate prepares for immigration, gun debates

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio appeared on seven news programs Sunday, setting the stage for debates on immigration reform and gun control that will take place in the Senate this week. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>>> senate set to take up immigration and gun control this week, one of the lawmakers at the center of both hot-button issues dominated tv screens for a time this morning, drawing some of the sharp lines that will guide the tough debates ahead. nbc 's kristin welker is at the white house now to tell us more. kristin ?

>> reporter: appearing on seven news programs today, including two spanish networks, republican senator marco rubio aggressively pushed the bipartisan immigration reform plan.

>> what we have in place today, the status quo is horrible for america.

>> reporter: rubio is a part of the so-called gang of eight that's spent months working out the details. the legislation is expected to tighten border security while providing a path to citizenship for the roughly 11 million people who are here illegally.

>> why isn't it tantamount to amnesty?

>> first of all, amnesty is the forgiveness of something. in fact there will be consequences for having violated the law.

>> reporter: still, opposition was swift with some conservatives saying they won't support legal status for anyone who is not documented.

>> they have produced legislation, it appears, that will give amnesty now with, legalize everyone that's here effectively today, and then there is a promise of enforcement in the future.

>> reporter: the latest nbc news/" wall street journal " poll shows nearly two-thirds of americans favor granting zibt citizenship to those who are here illegally and now hold jobs. on gun control , rubio defended his opposition to the proposed bill which expands background checks.

>> they're highly infectionive in terms of accomplishing the following goal, that is to protect the right of law abiding citizens to possess weapons and effectively keeping guns out of hands of dangerous criminals.

>> reporter: today joe manchin who co-authored the compromise praised republican susan collins who told nbc news exclusively after meeting with newtown families she plans to vote for it.

>> for her to take that courageous stand in the state of maine that has a tremendous amount of gun ownership like west virginia , i think it will make my other friends and colleagues both on the democratic and republican side take a little pause.

>> reporter: also today, a gun rights group, the citizen committee for the right to keep and bear arms, broke with the nra and announced its support of the manchin-toomey plan. meanwhi meanwhile, senator rubio's media blitz had everyone wondering if he's considering a presidential run in 2015 .

>> seriously, senator?

>> i haven't. i really haven't.

>> reporter: now the immigration plan is expected to be rolled out on tuesday. this as the senate begins debate on the gun bill. meanwhile, former congressman gabby giffords will be on the hill urging lawmakers to pass stiffer gun laws . lester?

>> kristin welker tonight, thank you.

>>> a program note -- savannah guthrie will discuss gun control , immigration and other issues in an exclusive interview with president obama that you can watch tuesday on "today." the weather