January 12, 2017

Marco Rubio says Obamacare 'absolute failure'


WASHINGTON - Senate Republicans early Thursday voted on a budget outline designed to repeal Obamacare and Florida’s Marco Rubio later celebrated the demise.

“ObamaCare has led to rising premiums, a collapse of the individual insurance market and fewer choices for patients,” Rubio said in a statement.

“The law is an absolute failure and its proponents insist it must be salvaged with a taxpayer-funded bailout of health insurance companies. We've now taken an important first step to repeal this law and replace ‎it with a patient-centered approach that expands access to providers and lowers costs of care. It is my hope and expectation that the transition to a replacement program can be done relatively seamlessly and minimize disruptions to patients.”

Sen. Bill Nelson joined Democrats in voting against the arcane budget measure, designed to be filibuster proof.

The bigger challenge, of course, is coming up with a replacement plan. President-elect Donald Trump said during his news conference yesterday he would soon present a proposal.

On Twitter this afternoon, Trump said: "Congrats to the Senate for taking the first step to #RepealObamacare- now it's onto the House!"

January 11, 2017

Tillerson says he'd urge Trump to keep Cuban embargo


Sen. Marco Rubio got Rex Tillerson to make news Wednesday afternoon about Cuba.

In Rubio's second round of questioning President-elect Donald Trump's secretary of state nominee, he asked Tillerson of he'd urge Trump to veto any potential legislation calling for doing away with the U.S.-Cuba trade embargo. Yes, Tillerson said.

He also said he'd oppose allowing unfettered travel by Americans to the island, though Tillerson added that any changes to President Barack Obama's Cuba reengagement policy would come only after a top-to-bottom Trump administration review.

More here.

Rubio goes for it in Tillerson hearing: 'Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?'


U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio made clear before Wednesday's confirmation hearing for Rex Tillerson that he had concerns about the secretary of state nominee's position on Russia.

In his first chance to publicly question Tillerson, Rubio did not hold back. 

First, Rubio tried to get Tillerson -- who called Russia a "danger" -- to agree to back sanctions on any Russian cyber attackers, something Rubio has proposed that Tillerson said he's not ready to do.

Then, Rubio escalated his questioning.

"Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?" the Florida Republican asked the Exxon Mobil chief executive.

"I would not use that term," Tillerson responded.

Rubio cited Russian targeting of civilians in Aleppo, Syria, and bombings in Chechnya. Tillerson said he'd need more information to assign direct blame to the Russian president. Rubio cut him off.

"Mr. Tillerson, what's happened in Aleppo is in the public domain," he said. "There is so much information out there about what's happened in Aleppo.... It should not be hard to say that Vladimir Putin's military has conducted war crimes in Aleppo."

He called Tillerson's "inability" to call Russia's actions in Syria a war crime "discouraging."

Rubio then mentioned the Russian political dissidents and journalists who have died "under suspicious circumstances."

"Do you believe that Vladimir Putin and his cronies are responsible for ordering the murder of countless dissident journalists and political opponents?" he asked.

Tillerson: "I do not have sufficient information to make that claim." To advise future President Donald Trump, he added, it's important "that I deal with facts."

"None of this is classified, Mr. Tillerson," Rubio shot back. "These people are dead."

Said Tillerson: "I'm not disputing these people are dead."

January 10, 2017

Rubio backs Trump's choice of Pruitt, a climate-change denier, to head EPA

Supreme Court Water Rights

Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday he backs President-elect Donald Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency: Scott Pruitt, the Oklahoma attorney general who has been an outspoken denier of climate change, a critical issue threatening Florida.

"The next EPA administrator should be someone who understands the important balance between protecting our air, water and environment without needlessly hurting workers with excessive regulations," Rubio said in a statement that made no mention of climate change. "Attorney General Pruitt ‎is the right choice to bring a much-needed dose of common sense to a department where overzealous, out-of-touch regulators have been allowed to operate seemingly unchecked. I look forward to working with him on the many important environmental issues facing Florida."

Pruitt has been a leading opponent of the EPA's Clean Power Plan to limit fossil-fuel emissions from power plants -- a key step to slow climate change. 

Former Gov. Jeb Bush has also praised Pruitt. Trump, who will be inaugurated in 10 days, said last month "nobody really knows" if climate change is real -- though scientists agree it is.

Photo credit: Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

Rubio meets with Tillerson ahead of confirmation hearing

 via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio met Monday evening with Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson, whose ties to Vladimir Putin have raised concerns with Rubio and other lawmakers.

“I appreciate Mr. Tillerson’s visit and for taking the time to begin discussing with me the challenges America faces around the world,” Rubio said in a statement to the Tampa Bay Times. “I look forward to his confirmation hearing later this week.”

Rubio’s office did not detail the conversation but undoubtedly Russia came up. Rubio is a key vote on the Foreign Relations Committee, which will begin Tillerson’s confirmation hearing on Wednesday morning.

In December, Rubio "While Rex Tillerson is a respected businessman, I have serious concerns about his nomination. "The next secretary of state must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America's interests, and will be a forceful advocate for America's foreign policy goals to the president, within the administration, and on the world stage. I look forward to learning more about his record and his views.‎ I will do my part to ensure he receives a full and fair but also thorough hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee."

Monday afternoon in Tampa about 75 people showed up outside Rubio's Tampa office to protest Tillerson, the former ExxonMobil CEO, on environmental grounds.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

January 03, 2017

Rubio lands appropriations committee spot

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio, sworn in this afternoon to a second term, has taken on two new committees: Appropriations and the Special Committee on Aging.

He retains his posts on the Committee on Foreign Relations, the Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

He will no longer serve on the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which had oversight on space issues.

“With so many threats to America’s national security around the world, I look forward to continuing my work on the foreign relations and intelligence committees," Rubio said in a statement. "In the days and weeks ahead, we must reestablish America’s moral standing in the world, and make it absolutely clear that the United States will remain a true friend of Israel and a beacon of hope and freedom to oppressed people everywhere. The challenges posed by countries like Cuba, Iran, Russia, China and North Korea will require decisive American leadership and resolve.

“We also have a lot of work to do here at home. Too many Americans have been left behind in the 21st century economy, and there is real anxiety among parents that their children will not have the same opportunities they had to work hard, pursue the American Dream, and climb the economic ladder. That’s not acceptable, and I’m going to work with anyone who wants to find real solutions for workers and their families. Of course, a key factor in growing our economy from the bottom up is our small businesses, and I’ll continue to collaborate closely with Florida job creators during my work on the small business committee.

“One major thing that will cost us jobs and hamstring our economy is our rising debt. With federal spending at record highs, our national debt has nearly doubled over the last eight years, despite the fact that government is taking in more tax revenue than ever before. The primary drivers of this unsustainable imbalance are our entitlement programs. More and more people are retiring, and while sunny Florida hopes to welcome them all, the rising number of retirees means we’re going to have to find ways to make Medicare and Social Security work better for everyone, so that people like my mother can continue to rely on these important programs and they are still there when our children need them. The committees on aging and appropriations will be at the center of these policy discussions, and I’m excited to have the opportunity to go to work for the people of Florida on these committees.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

December 23, 2016

Florida members of Congress tell feds: Pay our state for Trump's Mar-a-Lago security costs


via @learyreports

President-elect Donald Trump's travel to Florida is causing steep security costs and lawmakers want the federal government to pay.

Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio along with Reps. Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel and Patrick Murphy sent this letter:

Dear Attorney General Lynch and Secretary Johnson,

We are writing to make you aware of the attached request from the Mayor of Palm Beach County regarding reimbursement for ancillary costs associated with helping protect President-elect Trump, who has often visited his home in the area.

According to Mayor Burdick, the county spent approximately $250,000 to provide security support for the President-elect during his four-day visit over Thanksgiving alone.

Congress appropriated $7 million to the Department of Justice in the recently-passed government funding bill (P.L. 114-254) to reimburse State and local law enforcement agencies for overtime costs associated with protecting the President-elect before his inauguration.

We urge you to consider using those funds or any other resources that you deem appropriate to help the county offset these costs.

We appreciate your attention to this matter.

Photo credit: AP

December 21, 2016

Clinton's team feared Rubio more than Trump - until it was too late

via @learyreports

It’s not news that Hillary Clinton’s campaign viewed Marco Rubio with some fear. Democratic emails apparently stolen by the Russians showed Clinton’s team was impressed with the Floridian. “He gives a good speech, and sounded more reasonable, populist than a GOP candidate …” read one email.

Now comes evidence that Clinton considered him more of a threat than Donald Trump — if the size of opposition research books mean anything.

The Trump oppo book was a mere 157 pages, while one for Ted Cruz was 201 pages. Rubio’s was 431 pages.

The details were contained in a Vanity Fair story about the “desperate, year-long hunt to find Donald Trump’s rumored Apprentice outtakes.”

While Cruz was clearly a possible contender, many in the room agreed that Rubio, with his youth and charisma, posed the most considerable challenge. And then there was Trump, who was characterized in the meeting under “the four B’s”: a bully, a bigot, a bad businessman, and—as some staffers noted—not a billionaire. (There was discussion of a fifth B, which, in typical Democratic jargon, was “blithe.”) Trump’s oppo book was slim not because Clinton staffers had missed details regarding his divorces or corporate bankruptcies. It was short because they didn’t think he had much of a chance of winning the G.O.P. nomination.

December 19, 2016

Rubio hires campaign manager Clint Reed as chief of staff, promotes Alberto Martinez

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio has hired his re-election campaign manager, Clint Reed, as his chief of staff, while longtime aide Alberto Martinez will become senior advisor.

From a news release:

“I’m excited about my second term in the Senate and the team we are putting together to work hard every day for the people of Florida and get results on their behalf,” said Rubio. “For the past ten years, going back to my time in the state house, Albert has been a trusted and loyal advisor on policy, politics and communications. I am extremely grateful to him for his loyal service and the outstanding job he did managing my Senate office over the past two and a half years, a period where we passed more bills into law than any other during my term. Albert will continue to play a key role in shaping our office for the new challenges and opportunities which lie ahead.

“For over a year, I’ve gotten to know and work closely with Clint on my campaigns, including two in Florida. He’s a superb manager who loves Florida, has earned my trust, and relishes the challenge of solving tough problems,” Rubio added. “The next six years will undoubtedly present many challenges but also incredible opportunities to make an even bigger difference in the lives of Floridians and people throughout the country, and I’m excited to be surrounded with a team of devoted professionals who are passionate about public service.”