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Marco Rubio, immigration reformer, funds immigration-reform opponent Tom Cotton


Republican Sen. Marco Rubio's political committee is underwriting as much as $200,000 in ads for the Arkansas Senate campaign of Rep. Tom Cotton for good reason: The 36-year-old Harvard-educated Bronze Star recipient is the type of conservative the GOP dreams about.

And in one respect -- immigration reform -- Cotton appears more conservative and consistent than Rubio, who has repeatedly zig and then zagged over the issue, especially as tea party criticism mounted when he backed the type of "amnesty" he once decried.

For Cotton, Rubio's bipartisan immigration bill was comparable to that worst of proposals to Republicans: President Obama's Affordable Care Act.

“In so many ways, this bill is just like Obamacare -- not just the slap-dash manner it ran through the Senate but also in the big, cumbersome, unwieldy, very complicated undertaking that will begin to collapse under its own weight, and [it is] nothing more than amnesty without any enforcement,” Cotton told Real Clear Politics in July after he played a starring role in a House GOP immigration strategy meeting.

The National Review explained what happened:

The crowd of 200-plus Republicans took notice. From the start, Cotton’s message was a contrast with Ryan’s. He sliced into the Senate’s immigration bill and dismissed the idea of a compromise. He urged Republicans to oppose a conference with the Senate, and warned that any formal negotiations with the upper chamber would lead to disaster. He then turned to Speaker John Boehner, who was standing nearby, and advised him to tread carefully. For a moment, they engaged in a terse back-and-forth.

“We are not worlds apart from the Senate, we are galaxies apart,” Cotton told the speaker. Boehner responded that Cotton shouldn’t worry. “We’re not going to conference until we’re ready,” he said. The speaker coolly explained to Cotton that it’s important to pass legislation that reflects the position of House Republicans.

So, assuming Rubio doesn't retreat any more from his immigration bill and Cotton stays put, this is an area in which they don't see eye to eye.

"Since they strongly agree on, Taxes, Government Spending, Healthcare, Abortion / Social Issues, Foreign Affairs, Government Over-regulation, Energy Independence, and one or two other issues, I guess Marco was OK with them disagreeing on that one," said Terry Sullivan, with Rubio's Reclaim America PAC.

In all, Reclaim America has spent about $300,000 this year on candidates, a change since the National Journal last year called Rubio out for spending big on consultants as he positioned himself, unsuccessfully, to be Mitt Romney's running mate.