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White House, Rubio spar on immigration

Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla.Gary Cameron / Reuters

Sen. Marco Rubio really wants nothing to do with President Barack Obama's immigration backup plan.

Rubio's office on Tuesday released a statement insisting that the plan the Florida Republican is working on has "major differences" from the White House blueprint that was leaked to USA Today over the weekend. Spokesman Alex Conant pointed to a number of measures they say are missing from the White House plan: tying the a path to citizenship to border security, a new visa exit system and a plan to deal with future immigrants.

And Conant said no one in Rubio's office has met with the White House to talk immigration.

"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," Conant said.

On Tuesday, the White House insisted it was in fact working with lawmakers on the issue. Obama has said he wants the Senate to write a bipartisan immigration proposal, but that he'll release his own plan if that process drags.

"We have been in contact with everyone involved in this effort on Capitol Hill," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

Asked to clarify, Rubio's spokesman said the administration had sent agency officials to brief Senate staffers for the bipartisan group of eight senators who are working on immigration reform -- but insisted policy was not discussed.

Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla.Gary Cameron / Reuters

"They've never asked for our input. (And, frankly, we've never asked for theirs.)," Conant wrote in an email.

Senior administration officials said that staffers from the White House had attended at least 5 briefings with congressional staffers working on bipartisan reform. At different points, officials from relevant government agencies also briefed the staff group.

Some Republicans have suggested the White House's separate plan could help GOP supporters distance themselves from the president and highlight the compromises in a Senate plan. Rubio's office rejected that analysis.

"The White House has injected additional partisanship into an already difficult process, and raised fresh questions about the president’s seriousness about passing reform," Conant said.