Florida Sen. Marco Rubio believes there is a good chance that immigration reform laws that include a path to citizenship will be enacted by the end of President Barack Obama's second term.
Asked by Politico's Mike Allen at a "Playbook Breakfast" in Washington about the likelihood "that Congress has passed and the president has signed some pathway to citizenship for current illegals," Rubio responded that it's "more than 50/50." But Rubio (R-Florida) cautioned repeatedly that there is still a lack of consensus on the details of a reform package, including what to do with the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.
"I certainly believe that portions of immigration reform can be dealt with quicker than others but my hope is that for the good of this country we will have dealt with that issue," he said
Many expect Rubio to be a key player in the debate over immigration reform next year in Congress. This year he attempted to pass an alternative to the DREAM Act that would have provided legal status, but not a special pathway to citizenship, to certain young undocumented immigrants. That effort stalled when Obama enacted the deferred action program this summer.
Rubio is also seen as a prime candidate to run for president in 2016, although he told Allen that he has not made up his mind about whether he will.
See Also: Marco Rubio on the Earth's Age
When it comes to immigration though, Rubio stated that he would rather tackle the problems with the nation's laws – border security, employer verification, guest worker programs, and the undocumented population including DREAM Act kids -- in a "a comprehensive package of bills" and not necessarily as a single piece of legislation. Addressing each portion individually, he said, would make it easier for each element to pass through Congress.
Rubio acknowledged that finding a solution on the details of immigration reform could get messy. He said he has heard complaints from some immigrants who came to the U.S. legally who are "troubled" by the prospect that undocumented immigrants get a path to citizenship. And in the past, labor unions have opposed guest or temporary worker programs.
"This is going to take a while. There is no magic solution to this, or it would have been done a long time ago," he said.
Rubio said he wants the Republican Party to engage with the effort in order to recast its hostile image on immigration into a friendlier one and had some choice advice for some on the right about the subject.
"When you talk about illegal immigration, you're not talking about a plague of locusts. You're talking about people," Rubio said. "That's why it's such a big issue in the Hispanic community. It's not just a statistical issue."
Rubio also took a chance at the breakfast to take another stab at guessing the earth's age, which is part of a debate over the teaching of creationist thought in public schools.
"I'm not a scientist, man," he told GQ Magazine earlier this month, adding that the age of the earth is "one of the great mysteries."
This time around, he acknowledged what scientists have long said: that the earth is approximately 4.5 billion years old.
"There is no scientific debate on the age of the Earth, it's established pretty definitively, it's at least 4.5 billion years old," he said.
Rubio said he was acknowledging a "theological debate" and that the age of the earth as determined by scientists does not conflict with his religious views. He chalked up his original answer to GQ to being startled by the question after a long back-and-forth with the interviewer about hip-hop music.
"I'm not a robot, I guess I was caught off guard," he said.
Rubio, an opponent of same-sex marriage, also said that he believes homosexuality is a sin.
"I can tell you what faith teaches and the faith teaches that it is," he said.