April 05, 2017

Rubio criticizes Trump administration's Syria stance

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio suggested Wednesday that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s hands-off posture toward Syria contributed to the reported chemical weapons attack.

"It's concerning that the secretary of state, 72 hours ago or a week ago, this last Friday, said that the future's up to the people in Syria on what happens with Assad. In essence, almost nodding to the idea that Assad was going to get to stay in some capacity," Rubio said the Tampa Bay radio station 970 WFLA. 

"I don't think it's a coincidence that a few days later we see this,” Rubio said. “I hate to say this, but I think he’s going to get away with it again.”

Rubio appeared at a news conference later in Washington with Sen. Ben Cardin and both called for Trump to take a harder line.

 
--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 31, 2017

Rubio: I've spoken to Trump three times about Cuba

SENATE RUSSIA(2)
@PatriciaMazzei

Sen. Marco Rubio has kept mostly tight-lipped about what he's discussed with President Donald Trump on the occasions the two Republicans have met -- including over dinner with their wives at the White House.

But Rubio disclosed in a Spanish-language interview this week that he's used those conversations with Trump to bring up Cuba.

"I've spoken to the president of the United States personally on three occasions," Rubio told Mega TV host Oscar Haza after Haza asked about the future of U.S.-Cuba policy. "I think without a doubt there will be changes in U.S.-Cuba policy."

Rubio said he and his staff are dealing "very closely" with the White House on the issue, which he expects Trump to address "strategically."

"If the Cuban government is going to behave like a dictatorship, well, then we're going to deal with them like a dictatorship," Rubio said, without going into specifics. "We're not going to pretend it's changing. There haven't been any changes -- on the contrary, we've seen more repression." 

The topic of Cuba came up last week during White House health care discussions with Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart.

Photo credit: Andrew Harrer, Bloomberg

March 30, 2017

Russian hackers tried to get into email of Rubio presidential campaign aides

Trump Russia Probe
@PatriciaMazzei

Sen. Marco Rubio revealed Thursday that unknown Russian hackers tried unsuccessfully to access the email accounts of some of the top aides to his 2016 presidential campaign.

Rubio acknowledged the attempted breach in Senate Intelligence Committee meeting, after an expert in Russian influence operations testified that Rubio "anecdotally suffered" from Russian efforts to discredit him during the Republican primary. A similar campaign was under way on social media over the past week against House Speaker Paul Ryan, added Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. 

Watts later said Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham were also Russian targets.

Later in the hearing, Rubio said his aides' emails were targeted by Russian IP addresses in July 2016, shortly after he announced he'd seek reelection to the Senate.

"Within the last 24 hours -- at 10:45 a.m. yesterday -- a second attempt was made again against former members of my presidential campaign team who had access to our internal campaign information," Rubio said. "That effort was also unsuccessful." 

 

Photo credit: Susan Walsh, Associated Press

March 28, 2017

Rubio slams Democrats' plan to filibuster Gorsuch

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday blasted the growing possibility of a Democratic filibuster against Neil Gorsuch, a preview of the next round of fighting to reach Capitol Hill.

On Monday, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson said he'd join a filibuster, which would force Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to change the rules for a simple majority. Nelson in 2006 opposed a filibuster of Sameul Alito, though voted against him.

Democrats counter GOP criticism with two words: Merrick Garland.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 27, 2017

Rubio to Latin America: U.S. could cut aid to countries that side with Venezuela in OAS vote

Trump Secretary of State Rubio
via @DelgadoAntonioM

Sen. Marco Rubio sent a strong warning Monday to the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Haiti, saying that it would be difficult to protect them from possible cuts in U.S. aid if they fail to defend democracy when the Venezuelan government comes up for a possible sanctions vote at the Organization of American States (OAS).

The Florida Republican, one of the harshest critics of the Venezuelan government in Washington, told the Nuevo Herald that the OAS vote set for Tuesday is exceptionally important for the future of democracy in the region, and of the hemispheric organization itself.

The vote would even affect the assistance that Washington provides to El Salvador, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, he added.

"This is not a threat, but it is the reality," said Rubio, one of the architects of U.S. laws that already sanction Venezuela's chavista government because of the corruption and human rights violations in the oil-producing country.

"We have a very difficult situation in Washington, where massive cuts in foreign aid are under consideration," the senator said. "And it will be very difficult for us to justify assistance to those countries if they, at the end of the day, are countries that do not cooperate in the defense of democracy in the region."

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Helber, Associated Press

March 23, 2017

How Nelson and Rubio voted on internet privacy rules

via @learyreports

The Senate voted today to kill regulations that would prevent Internet providers from tracking and sharing personal data without consent, and Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio were on opposite sides.

Nelson voted against the measure; Rubio voted for it.

The Associated Press explains:

The regulations would have required a company like Verizon to get approval before telling an advertiser what websites customers visited, what apps they used, their health and financial information, or their physical location. Under the regulations, many more people likely would have chosen not to allow their data to be shared than if they had to take an extra step of asking a company to stop sharing or selling their information.

Industry groups and Republicans protested the regulations. They said broadband providers would have to operate under tougher privacy requirements than digital-advertising behemoths like Google and Facebook.

Nelson blasted the move. “We are talking about taking privacy rights away from individuals if we suddenly eliminate this rule,” the Democrat said in a statement after the vote. “This is a gold mine of data, the Holy Grail, so to speak.”

“It is no wonder that broadband providers want to be able to sell this information to the highest bidder without the consumer's knowledge or consent,” Nelson continued. “And they want to collect and use this information without providing transparency or being held accountable. Is this what you want to inflict upon your constituents in your state by changing this rule about their personal, sensitive privacy?”

Rubio: "The FCC’s last-minute regulation was poorly conceived and held internet service providers to a different standard than other companies handling the same information, all while doing nothing to protect consumers’ privacy. It was important to overturn this burdensome rule so that we encourage innovation and investment instead of adding another complex layer of bureaucracy to the internet.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 22, 2017

Rubio remains noncomittal on GOP healthcare bill

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio declined on Wednesday to take a position on the GOP's Obamacare replacement bill, saying it is a "work in progress."

"By the time I give you a statement now, that bill could change in the next 12 hours and then I'm on record of supporting something that changed," Rubio said on Jacksonville radio station WOKV.

He's right that the bill could change before the end of the day as Speaker Paul Ryan, President Trump and others are trying to rally enough votes. "They've got their own drama going on over there," Rubio said of the House.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 20, 2017

That time Rubio asked, 'Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI?'

via @learyreports

Days before the presidential election, Marco Rubio asked a crowd in Punta Gorda, "Can this country afford to have a president under investigation by the FBI?"

"No," the audience shouted.

That comment, captured by the liberal opposition research group American Bridge, was directed at Hillary Clinton. But it has a new meaning Monday as the FBI confirmed it has an ongoing investigation into Russian involvement in the election and possible ties to the Trump associates, which would include Roger Stone.

We have asked for Rubio's reaction to today's House Intelligence Committee hearing and will update if he responds.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

March 16, 2017

Marco Rubio critical of some cuts in Trump's budget

RubiomicAP

@amysherman1

 Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio criticized President Donald Trump's proposal to cut State Department money but praised other parts of his budget proposal. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, bashed Trump's proposal.

Here is Rubio's statement:

“The president’s budget reflects what his administration’s priorities are. I am very encouraged that this budget supports ideas like the Educational Opportunities Act I first introduced in 2013 with the goal of expanding school choice through tax credit incentives for scholarships to low-income students. It's a promising sign that we'll be able to work with the administration on school choice policies I care deeply about because of the positive impact they can have in providing hardworking families with better school options for their kids. I also welcome the president's desire to begin reversing the damaging impact of sequestration on our military's readiness, and believe he'll find strong support in Congress for this key part of his budget blueprint.

“While this budget blueprint offers insights into the president’s thinking about what’s important to his administration and the American people, it is Congress that will actually set the nation’s policy priorities and fund them. I will continue to review all the details of this budget proposal for areas of common interest we can work on together.

“However, I do not support the proposed 28 percent cut to our international affairs budget and diplomatic efforts led by the State Department. These programs are integral to our national security, and cuts at these levels undermine America’s ability to keep our citizens safe. In order to advance our national security interests, economic opportunity for our people and respect for human dignity everywhere, America’s leadership on the global stage is indispensable. I will be working to ensure Congress’ funding priorities allow America to play this role.”

Here is Nelson's statement:

“This plan doesn’t make any sense. You're going to cut some of our most important agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, which is working to find cures for cancer and Alzheimer's, the Environmental Protection Agency, which keeps our air and water clean, and the Army Corps of Engineers, which is working to restore the Everglades. I agree that we must do whatever is necessary to keep our country safe, but cutting all of these important programs to pay for things, such as a wall, just doesn’t make any sense.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Miami Republican, declared Trump's proposal "dead on arrival" and criticized it. 

 

March 14, 2017

'There's nobody nominated yet' at the State Department, Rubio laments

 

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio is concerned about the Trump administration's failure to nominate hundreds of positions across the government.

“We still have about 500 positions vacant throughout the federal government, most of whom have not even been nominated yet, much less appointed,” Rubio said Tuesday morning on a Pensacola radio station.

“So hopefully that will start to speed up. Right now we're trying to having hearings, for example, in Foreign Relations and there’s just nobody at the State Department, there’s nobody nominated yet. You can’t confirm someone if they haven’t been nominated.”

Rubio said the White House is learning and gave a token knock on Democrats. But he pointed out that only two Cabinet positions are pending and one, Labor, had to be restarted after the nominee withdrew.

Trump has said that not all the lower positions need to be filled. But Rubio counters that at least 150 are “critical,” pointing to the State Department and U.S. attorneys.

“As it stands right now,” Rubio said, “the Senate has basically processed every nominee for the Cabinet that is available for processing.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times