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Obama eases tensions with Rubio, GOP reform advocates

The White House/flickr

The debate over comprehensive immigration reform took a rather petty turn yesterday, when Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) office complained that neither Rubio nor any of his aides have ever discussed the policy with anyone at the White House. It led press secretary Jay Carney to note that the claim is wrong -- members of President Obama's team met five times with staffers of the eight senators working on a bipartisan reform package, which includes Rubio.

So, Rubio's office said the five meetings to discuss the policy didn't count as "discussing immigration policy," because the White House didn't seek enough "input" during the meetings.

The process is progressing nicely, isn't it?

Fortunately, Obama tried to elevate the conversation to a less-ridiculous level yesterday, reaching out directly to the GOP senators involved in the process, including the far-right Floridian.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday called three of the four Republican senators working with four Senate Democrats to draft comprehensive immigration legislation that they hope to unveil next month.

"This afternoon, the President placed calls to [the senators] to discuss their shared commitment to bipartisan, commonsense immigration reform and to commend the Senators for the bipartisan progress that continues to be made by the Gang of 8 on this important issue," the White House said in a release.

Obama spoke with Sens. Rubio, John McCain (R-Ariz.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), and would have spoken to Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), too, but he was traveling yesterday and was unavailable.

It's unlikely the one-on-one chats dramatically changed the nature of the debate, but they weren't intended to -- it seems the president just wanted to calm the waters a bit after Rubio starting throwing a fit for reasons that remain a mystery.

And it appears Obama succeeded in his goal of easing the tensions before they spiraled out of control. Rubio's spokesperson tweeted that the senator "appreciated [the president's] call to discuss immigration tonight. Rubio said he feels good about ongoing negotiations in Senate."