December 13, 2016

Rubio: 'I have serious concerns' about Trump secretary of state pick

via @learyreports

President-elect Donald Trump this morning officially nominated Rex Tillerson as secretary of state, setting up a clash with fellow Republicans such as Sen. Marco Rubio.

"While Rex Tillerson is a respected businessman, I have serious concerns about his nomination," said Rubio, who says earlier criticized Tillerson's ties with Vladimir Putin.

"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.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

December 11, 2016

Rubio knocks potential Trump secretary of state pick as 'friend of Vladimir' Putin

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday criticized Donald Trump's pick of Rex Tillerson as secretary of state over the ExxonMobil CEO's ties to Russia. 

It is the most overt criticism Rubio, a one-time adversary of Trump who came to support him, has made as the new administration comes together. Rubio has been a vocal critic of Putin and has signaled support for investigations into alleged Russian meddling in the election -- an idea Trump scoffed at on Sunday.

“I think it’s ridiculous,” Trump said on Fox News Sunday. “I think it’s just another excuse. I don’t believe it . . . No, I don’t believe it at all.”

Rubio's words follow those of other Senate hawks, including John McCain, who said Tillerson's ties are "a matter of concern," and Lindsey Graham who called it "unnerving."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

December 09, 2016

Rubio supports proposed investigation into alleged Russian meddling in election

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio supports a call for a congressional investigation into Russian involvement in the election, his staff confirmed Friday.

Top Republicans, including Sens. John McCain and Richard Burr, have called for a "coordinated and wide-ranging probe," as the Washington Post put it. On Friday, President Obama separately instructed his administration to prepare its own report.

President-elect Donald Trump has played down Russia's involvement and his stance toward Vladimir Putin is at odds with Rubio and other Republicans.

Rubio's office did not offer new comment but referred to what he said a couple weeks ago on "Meet the Press."

"If a foreign government has been involved in injecting chaos into our democratic process, the American people deserve to know that. I've made my feelings known in the midst of the campaign," Rubio said.

He went on: "I've never said it's the Russian government, although I believe it was the work of a foreign government. I will say this. If you look at what happened during our election and the sort of things that were interjected into the election process, they are very similar to the sort of active measures that you've seen the Russians use in the past in places like Eastern Europe, to interfere with the elections of other countries. And what we mean by "interfere" is they try to undermine the credibility of the election. They try to undermine individual leaders. And they try to create chaos in the political discourse. And the fundamental argument behind it is they want people to-- they want to de-legitimize the process."

Pointedly asked if it is worthy of Congressional scrutiny, the Florida Republican said: "Absolutely."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

December 02, 2016

Rubio not taking part in Capitol Hill push to help DREAMers

via @learyreports

With concerns over the Trump administration stripping legal status from Dreamers, a bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Sen. Lindsey Graham is working on legislation to provide that protection.

The group does not include Sen. Marco Rubio, who had gained widespread attention years ago for proposing legislation aimed at young immigrants brought to the country illegally by their parents.

Rubio’s office declined comment.

Rubio’s legislation was never filed and President Obama followed through with his Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals plan, which has shielded more than 740,000 Dreamers, including more than 20,000 in Florida.

President-elect Donald Trump has talked about rescinding the program. Rubio criticized Obama's executive action, too, but has said the legal status already granted should not be retroactively removed.

“My recommendation would be that there are people that have already availed themselves of that, and that there's a period of time for that,” he said last week on Meet The Press. “I would not retroactively remove their status. I would say that, from some point forward, people will not be allowed to apply for renewal for that status. And that will give us a defined period of time to work through this, beginning with border security and modernization of the legal immigration system.”

It’s unclear whether Rubio, who has been singed by the immigration debate, plans to get involved in legislative efforts.

The plan discussed by Graham, as reported by Politico, “would apply just to the immigrants who had been approved under the 2012 directive from Obama. Graham indicated that the legislation would be a bridge from a repeal of DACA ‘until we can fix the overall problem.’ ”

“It’s going to be basically, if you have legal status, you’ll continue legal status,” Graham told Politico. “I think it would pass overwhelmingly.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

November 30, 2016

'Building a wall is a phrase,' Rubio says

via @learyreports

Sen. Marco Rubio says he’s eager to get to work on Donald Trump’s agenda of ditching Obamacare and increasing border security, though Rubio implied that Trump’s wall was a rhetorical device.

“Building a wall is a phrase that is about securing the border and enforcing our immigration laws. And I think that's something we need to move on first,” Rubio said Tuesday night in an interview with Sean Hannity. “I've -- I've said now for a long time that it is the key that unlocks the door to be able to do anything else on immigration.”

Rubio’s comments reflect what other Republicans on Capitol Hill have said as questions have come up about the cost and feasibility of a wall, at least as Trump described it.

Rubio said he generally agreed with Trump’s domestic agenda but carefully noted potential differences on foreign policy. “We'll see how that develops. He's had -- as I said, he's never held public office before, so he said some things on the campaign trail. We'll see how that translates to foreign policy,” Rubio said.

Continue reading "'Building a wall is a phrase,' Rubio says" »

November 09, 2016

Rubio congratulates Trump on 'tone' in victory

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio's statement:

"I congratulate President-elect Trump‎ and Vice President-elect Pence on their victory. They listened to the frustrations and anxieties of the American people after eight years of failure in Washington and earned this opportunity to lead the country. Their victory, along with Republican Senate and House victories across the country, are a clear rejection of business as usual in Washington.

"It's been a long, tough and hard-fought election, but President-elect Trump struck the right tone last night by asking the country to come together. Whether you voted for him or not, he will soon be our president and our nation can only be successful in the years to come by helping him succeed.

"I'm honored to be returning to the Senate to serve the people of Florida for another six years. I'm hopeful that these next two years with a Republican Senate, House and White House allow us to accomplish even more positive things on behalf of the people of Florida and for the greater good of our country."

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

So much for Rubio 2020

via @learyreports

Marco Rubio’s easy victory, declared just after polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, immediately raised the 2020 talk.

So how much more interesting are things now with President-elect Donald Trump?

Rubio was poised, along with a gaggle of other Republicans, to emerge as the face of the anti-Hillary Clinton movement that Trump was widely expected to fall short of carrying past Election Day. The bilingual Republican savior Rubio was staring at Act 2.

Now Rubio will have to once again navigate Trump, a man he deemed a con man, too dangerous to oversee the nation's nuclear codes, not enough aggressive toward Vladimir Putin.

Rubio has said he'll stand up to Trump, act as a check on his power. But for the time being, it seems implausible that he, or any other ambitious Republican, will dare to mess with the movement Trump built -- a movement that rejected establishment politicians.

At the same time, Rubio has a chance to legislate like never before. With the GOP controlling Washington, will he pursue his anti-abortion agenda? What about Cuba policy? His ideas for expanded child tax credits?

How interesting are things now?

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

Rubio's margin of victory: 716,833 votes

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@ByKristenMClark

While some expected Florida's U.S. Senate race to be relatively close at the end, Florida voters were decisive in re-electing Republican Marco Rubio on Tuesday.

In complete but unofficial results, Rubio's margin of victory was 8 percentage points -- 716,833 votes, to be precise, out almost 9.3 million cast.

Rubio outperformed president-elect Donald Trump -- who took Florida by about 120,000 votes out of almost 9.4 million cast -- while Rubio's Democratic challenger, Patrick Murphy underperformed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Rubio beat Murphy 52 percent to 44 percent, while Trump beat Clinton in Florida 49 percent to 48 percent.

MORE: Rubio returns to U.S. Senate

Murphy, a two-term congressman from Jupiter, won the majority of the vote in only nine of Florida's 67 counties -- most of them in reliably blue hotspots: Alachua, Gadsen, Leon, Orange, Osceola and St. Lucie counties, plus the Democratic stronghold of South Florida: Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

While Rubio, of West Miami, lost his home county to Murphy by 109,000 votes, Rubio easily won most of Florida's rural counties and two key metros: Tampa Bay and Jacksonville. In Florida bellwether Hillsborough County, Rubio won by just 2,900 votes, with stronger support in the surrounding counties. In Duval County, Rubio's advantage was more than 69,000 votes.

Murphy -- who will now exit Congress in January after representing the Treasure Coast and northern Palm Beach County for four years -- had a mixed bag in his moderate congressional district. (His redistricted seat went back in the red column Tuesday, won by Republican Brian Mast.)

He won in Palm Beach County by more than 61,000 votes and eked by in St. Lucie County with 3,300 more votes than Rubio. However, he lost Martin County to Rubio by more than 16,000 votes.

Polls had shown Rubio ahead in nearly all polls in the Senate race -- by various margins -- since he declared for re-election in June. Less than a handful had Murphy evenly tied with him.

Photo credit: Pedro Portal / Miami Herald

November 08, 2016

Marco Rubio easily keeps seat in U.S. Senate

2016 Election Senate Rubio

@JeremySWallace @KristenMClark @DavidOvalle305

Marco Rubio is headed back to the U.S. Senate with his prospects of another run for president intact.

Rubio defeated two-term Congressman Patrick Murphy, who couldn’t overcome poor name recognition or questions about embellishments on his résumé.

Tuesday’s outcome was not a surprise given Rubio never trailed in 47 consecutive public polls of the race since he jumped into the contest in June. Yet given that Rubio emphatically stated he would not run for re-election six months ago, the outcome was still improbable.

Rubio, flanked by his family, took the stage at his watch party shortly before 9 p.m. to the cheers of a raucous crowd inside a ballroom at Miami’s Airport Hilton

He said he talked to Murphy by phone. “He ran a great race.”

In his brief remarks, Rubio struck a optimistic tone, making no mention of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. He took a sharply different tact than Trump, his party’s standard bearer who campaigned with divisive rhetoric.

“America is going to be OK. We will turn this country around. I have faith. I know God is not done with America yet,” Rubio said, adding: “While we can disagree on issues, we cannot share a country where people hate each other because of their political affiliations. We cannot move forward as a nation if we can not have enlightened debates about tough issues."

More here.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee / AP

November 04, 2016

Outside money floods Rubio-Murphy race thanks to high court's Citizens United ruling

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Individuals, corporations, advocacy groups and super-PACs from outside Florida are pumping money into the close Senate contest between incumbent Marco Rubio and challenger Patrick Murphy.

More than $48 million in independent expenditures, most of it from outside the Sunshine State, has been spent on the Rubio-Murphy race in which the Miami Republican has held about a 3 point lead in recent days, according to the polling average on realclearpolitics.com.

Only five other U.S. Senate campaigns -- in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio -- have received more money from outside their campaigns.

Every state except Nevada features incumbent GOP senators who, like Rubio, are trying to fend off Democratic challengers. Nevada's race is for an open Senate seat vacated by the retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid.

Those six races will likely decide whether the Republican Party retains the Senate majority it gained in the November 2014 elections.

In addition to money contributed by outside groups, Rubio's campaign had raised $12.48 million through Oct. 19 while Murphy's campaign had raised $13.72 million, for a total of $26.2 million, according to the Federal Election Commission.

That figure combined with the independent expenditures puts an overall price tag of almost $75 million on the Rubio-Murphy Senate race.

In Florida's Senate race, outside groups have made 14 TV, media and digital ad buys totaling at least $1 million, all but one of them targeting Murphy.

The biggest buy was made by the Senate Leadership Fund on Oct. 27 for $3.16 million.

The Senate Leadership Fund, a spinoff of the American Crossroads super PAC started by former President George W. Bush senior adviser Karl Rove, has spent $81.7 million in the current election cycle.

Among all super PACs in the country, only the liberal Priorities USA Action and the conservative Right to Rise USA have spent more.

Other groups based outside Florida that have spent big against Murphy are the American Future Fund, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Republican Senate Committee and the National Rifle Association.

The only Florida-centric organization with significant expenditures opposing Murphy is the Florida First Project, a super PAC created in June on the day Rubio did an about-switch and announced he was running for Senate re-election after having declined during his earlier presidential bid.

So-called "super" political action committees are free to collect unlimited amounts of money as long as the donors' identities and the amounts of their contributions.

The flood of independent expenditures by super PACs has followed a landmark 2010 Supreme Court ruling, in a case brought by the conservative watchdog group Citizens United, that described such spending as expressions of free speech protected by the First Amendment.

However, direct contributions to political campaigns remain limited by campaign-finance law.

Photo credit: Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press