Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) sparred in a tense and heated exchange over immigration at the Thursday-night Republican presidential debate.
The back-and-forth followed a segment during which Fox News moderator Megyn Kelly confronted both candidates over their past statements and positions on immigration reform.
Cruz argued that Rubio had stood with Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York), then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and President Barack Obama by co-sponsoring a 2013 immigration bill that included a pathway to citizenship for millions of people living in the country illegally.
“When that battle was waged, my friend Sen. Rubio chose to … support amnesty,” Rubio said.
Rubio took exception to that characterization. He referred to earlier comments from Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), who questioned Cruz’s “authenticity” while lamenting that other candidates were not as conservative as him.
“This is the lie that Ted’s campaign is built on, and Rand touched upon it. That he’s the most conservative guy and everyone else is a RINO,” Rubio said, using an acronym for “Republican in name only.”
“The truth is, Ted, throughout this campaign you’ve been willing to say and do anything to get votes,” he continued. That statement drew a smattering of boos in the crowd.
“Ted, you worked for George W. Bush’s campaign,” Rubio went on. “You helped design George W. Bush’s immigration plan. Now you want to trump Trump on immigration.”
Cruz shot back by reiterating his attack on Rubio.
“I like Marco Rubio. He’s very charming. He’s very smooth. But the facts are simple: Whe ran for election in the state of Florida, he said, ‘If you elect me, I will lead the fight against amnesty.’ When I ran in Texas, I told the people of Texas, ‘If you elect me, I will lead the fight against amnesty.’
He added: “We both made the identical promises, but when we came to Washington we made a different choice.”
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