ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
UPDATED: The conflict within the Republican Party over the comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed in the Senate was on display again on Thursday — just hours before the vote.
The chief spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee said that a vote for the bill would end up being a political “minus” for Democratic senators likely to face tough re-election battles in 2014 — specifically Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.
“It’s just another sign that even vulnerable Democrats like Landrieu, Begich, Hagan and Pryor are a more loyal to Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama than they are to middle-class men and women struggling in their home states,” NRSC strategist Brad Dayspring said in a statement.
All four Democrats are expected to vote “yes” on the bill along with the rest of their Democratic colleagues. But at least 14 Republicans are expected to vote the same way, including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the architects of the legislation.
But in late May the same NRSC that on Thursday criticized the four reform-minded Democrats, released a 90-second web video featuring Rubio touting the benefits of immigration reform.
“I see immigration every single day. I see the good of immigration. I see how important it is for our future,” Rubio says in the video, which also includes a clip of the Florida senator saying in Spanish that he comes from a family of immigrants.
Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., another expected Republican “yes” vote on the immigration bill, also makes a cameo in the NRSC’s May 30 video.
Given the Republican support for comprehensive immigration reform, ABC News asked Dayspring whether he was endorsing the notion that Democrats who also back the bill should have their support used against them during the midterm election cycle. “I think all votes have political consequences,” he said.
[UPDATE: Late Thursday afternoon Dayspring tweeted: "NRSC doesn't plan a major focus on immigration or to engage in a national effort around the legislation." He followed up with an additional statement to ABC News: "The NRSC hasn't engaged on the issue or a national effort about the legislation. This isn't a policy discussion, rather it is about the politics for three vulnerable Democratic senators whom, according to public polling, face an uphill climb."]
One pro-immigration GOP strategist who declined to be identified disagreed with Dayspring’s statement, originally published in a Hill newspaper story headlined: “GOP prepares to pummel red-state Dems on immigration reform votes.”
“On the day the Senate is poised to pass historic immigration reform with the support of prominent Republican senators, it is discouraging to hear counterproductive statements,” the strategist said. “Most Republicans understand that passing immigration legislation that secures our borders, cuts the deficit and helps our economy is good for our party and good for our country.”
Dayspring told ABC News his quote in The Hill was “used a bit out of context” and that he “wasn’t asked about targeting any member on the immigration vote or about NRSC efforts around the vote.” However, several Republican state party officials quoted in the story said the Democrats’ support for the bill would ultimately be a liability in their re-election bids.