February 14, 2017

Rubio backs broad investigation into Russian meddling

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON — Sen. Marco Rubio says questions into Michael Flynn’s dealings with the Russians are best handled as part of a broader investigation into Russia’s involvement in U.S. affairs.

“There’s an ongoing, bipartisan investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee,” Rubio, a member of the committee, said Tuesday at the Capitol. “I believe the scope of that would cover anything that has to do with Russia and its involvement in before, during and after the election. …

“I have full confidence that the intelligence committee is going to do a good job. If they don’t, I’ll let everyone know that we didn’t, but I believe that we can and I believe that we will.”

Yesterday, Rubio made similar remarks. “We are going to go wherever the truth leads us,” he said.

Rubio did not directly comment on the Flynn situation.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 10, 2017

Those hot congressional town halls? Don't expect many in South Florida

@PatriciaMazzei

Over the past week, a string of town-hall meetings held across the country by Republican members of Congress have drawn hordes of constituents angry about repealing the Affordable Care Act and the GOP's embrace of President Donald Trump

But if South Floridians want a similar forum to vent to their Republican lawmakers, they're out of luck.

The only local member of Congress who plans to hold open meetings soon is U.S. Rep. Ted Deutch, a Boca Raton Democrat, who's got two scheduled -- in Wilton Manors and Pompano Beach -- Saturday. Democrats just haven't been getting the same sort of protests as Republicans at their public events.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has no town hall planned, a spokesman said, noting that the Senate is still in session. (Progressive activists say they will nevertheless stump outside his Doral office Tuesday to ask him for one.) Neither does Miami Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. No in-person town halls are scheduled either for Miami Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, though he hopes to let constituents call into a "tele-town hall" in late March, a spokeswoman said. 

A spokeswoman for Miami Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart refused to admit the congressman isn't holding town halls.

"The Congressman is constantly traveling the district and meeting with constituents, but we do not publicize his schedule," Katrina Valdés said in an email.

When pressed if that means no public events without pre-screened attendees, she added: "He has countless meetings with constituents and constituent groups while traveling the district. Our office is in touch with those who he will be meeting with."

More than 200 pro-Obamacare protesters showed up last Saturday at a town hall for Republican Rep. Gus Bilirakis in Palm Harbor, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

February 08, 2017

Rubio calls for civility after McConnell rebukes Warren

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio joined Republicans in voting last night to silence Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who was speaking out against Jeff Sessions as attorney general. Sen. Bill Nelson joined Democrats in objecting to the move.

The rebuke came as Warren was reading a 1986 letter Coretta Scott King wrote as Sessions was being considered for a federal judgeship. The letter said Sessions, as a U.S. attorney in Alabama, “had used the awesome power of his office to chill the free exercise of the vote by black citizens."

Amid the debate, Rubio gave a lengthy speech. "We have become a society incapable of having debates anymore," he said, adding figures in both parties, himself included, have engaged in heated rhetoric.

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

February 03, 2017

Fact-checking Rubio's claim about visa overstays in Florida

RubiooutsidehisofficeAP

@amysherman1

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio supports President Donald Trump’s promise to build a wall at the Mexican border but says it won’t address the main path that undocumented immigrants use to arrive in Florida.

“In Florida, 70 percent of the people here illegally came on an airplane,” Rubio, a Florida Republican, told reporters while visiting growers in Immokalee Jan. 27. “They overstayed a visa — the wall isn't going to address that.”

Rubio, who along with Trump advocated for implementing a system to track visa overstays, is one of many politicians to raise concerns about immigrants overstaying their visas — in 2015 he said that nationally 40 percent of illegal immigrants had overstayed a visa, a claim we rated Mostly True. But in Florida, is the rate really 70 percent?

 

February 01, 2017

Senators Rubio and Nelson weigh in on Trump SCOTUS pick Neil Gorsuch

@amysherman1

Florida's U.S. Senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have weighed in on Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump's pick for the U.S. Spreme Court.

Here is Nelson's statement:

“The confirmation of a Supreme Court justice is an awesome responsibility that I gladly accept. I will base my decision on a full examination of Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record and his responses to senators’ questions.”

Here is Rubio's statement:

“Judge Gorsuch is a highly qualified, mainstream jurist, which is why he was unanimously confirmed to the circuit court by the Senate in 2006. By all accounts he has the right temperament and experience for the job, and I’m pleased to see him nominated to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. Most importantly, he is committed to the principles of original intent and judicial restraint. This is critical, because too many in the federal judiciary today believe it is appropriate for judges to invent new policies and rights instead of interpreting and defending the Constitution as it is written.

“Unfortunately, Senate Democrats already announced they would oppose any Supreme Court nominee no matter who it is. This obstruction is neither principled nor reasonable, considering we just had an election where the future of the Supreme Court was a central issue not only at the presidential level but in every Senate contest. On the issue of this Supreme Court nomination specifically, the American people gave the president and the Republican-controlled Senate a mandate to choose a successor to Antonin Scalia. Senate Democrats should accept the results of the election and allow the process to move forward with a vote. I look forward to a fair and thorough confirmation process, and I am confident Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed by the Senate once again, this time to serve on the Supreme Court.”

January 29, 2017

January 27, 2017

Rubio seeks new path in Trump’s Washington

Rubio tillerson

via @learyreports

WASHINGTON -- The news photographers rushed to the front of the room, jutting their lenses at Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chuckled at the spectacle, which Rubio built up over weeks, ensuring a return to the national spotlight.

On President Donald Trump’s first full weekday in office, Rubio faced a consequential decision: Maintain an election promise to stand up to Trump or set aside objections to Rex Tillerson, the nominee for secretary of state, and spare Trump a measure of dissent from fellow Republicans.

“It was a close call,” Rubio said after the vote Monday, engulfed by reporters. A woman in a Greenpeace shirt joined the herd, mockingly holding up a model of a human spine.

Rubio’s vote in favor of Tillerson, despite concern about the former Exxon Mobil CEO’s coziness with Russia, illustrates a reality and a calculation. This is Trump’s Washington, and Rubio, who as a presidential candidate accused Trump of being a con man, is choosing a safer route.

The 45-year-old starts his second term with an opportunity to address longtime criticism that he is more flash than substance, a charismatic speaker who spent a great deal of his first six-year term angling for the presidency, as he likely would have done had Hillary Clinton prevailed.

More here.

Photo credit: Matt McClain, The Washington Post

January 23, 2017

Rubio's a yes on Tillerson, despite grilling him on Russia

  Trump Secretary of State Rubio

@PatriciaMazzei

WASHINGTON -- U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio will back Rex Tillerson as President Donald Trump’s secretary of state Monday, despite “reservations” exposed in the Florida Republican’s pointed, high-profile questioning of the Cabinet nominee two weeks ago.

“Given the uncertainty that exists both at home and abroad about the direction of our foreign policy, it would be against our national interests to have this confirmation unnecessarily delayed or embroiled in controversy,” Rubio wrote on Facebook. “Therefore, despite my reservations, I will support Mr. Tillerson’s nomination in committee and in the full Senate.”

 

Rubio made the announcement ahead of Monday afternoon’s vote of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ensuring that Tillerson will clear the committee without the political blemish of having a Republican oppose him. Tillerson’s two other potential detractors on the committee, U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and John McCain of Arizona, both said Sunday they’d support him.

Rubio used the public Tillerson hearing last Monday to try to corner the former Exxon Mobil chief executive on Russia. Tillerson refused to label Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “war criminal.” (“I would not use that term,” Tillerson said.)

Their feisty exchange, which also touched on human-rights issues in countries like Cuba and China, was nationally televised and gave Rubio, a master of seizing the public-relations moment, the biggest Washington press coverage he’s had in months. He was reportedly courted by top Trump administration honchos and GOP donors afterward, and spent a week telling reporters he was reviewing Tillerson’s answers to questions Rubio posed in writing before making up his mind.

By Trump’s inauguration Friday, few Washington politicians expected Rubio to break with the new president, given Rubio would receive little political upside, other than to rally support from other Republican national-security hawks worried about Putin’s influence.

More here.

Photo credit: Steve Helber, Associated Press

Decision day for Rubio on Tillerson

via @learyreports

It’s decision day for Sen. Marco Rubio.

After high-profile showdown with Rex Tillerson, President Trump’s pick for secretary of state, Rubio will have vote for or against him when the Foreign Relations Committee meets this afternoon.

As of Sunday night, Rubio had not said how he will vote. Sunday morning, Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who share Rubio’s hawkish outlook, announced they would support Tillerson, who is expected to get confirmed.

How Rubio votes, however, could determine how easy that path is.

A committee vote against Tillerson would invite a backlash among Trump supporters, if not the president himself, but it could also solidify Rubio’s backing from Republicans who remain skeptical of Trump and his administration’s ties to Russia.

Rubio aggressively questioned Tillerson during hearings at one point asking, "Is Vladimir Putin a war criminal?"

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

Tillerson no doubt has worked behind the scenes to allay Rubio’s concerns, as he did with McCain and Graham.

“Though we still have concerns about his past dealings with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin, we believe that Mr. Tillerson can be an effective advocate for U.S. interests," they said in a statement. "The views that Mr. Tillerson has expressed, both privately and publicly during the confirmation process, give us confidence that he will be a champion for a strong and engaged role for America in the world.”

--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times

January 16, 2017

Rubio: Cuban immigration policy 'was going to be changed one way or another'

@PatriciaMazzei

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio confirmed Monday that he won't try to bring back the special immigration status for Cubans that President Barack Obama eliminated last week in a surprise move.

"Wet foot/dry foot -- and the Cuban Adjustment Act in general -- was in danger," Rubio told reporters in Miami. Obama's reestablishing of diplomatic relations with Cuba undermined "the very essence and the purpose of the law, its justification."

"There's been well-documented abuses of the program," added the Florida Republican, who had filed legislation to tighten federal benefits for recent Cuban arrivals. "In my view, the Cuban Adjustment Act was going to be changed one way or another."

He even predicted there would be enough votes in Congress to repeal the law altogether.

The Cuban Adjustment Act still stands, but Obama's actions Thursday effectively gutted it, making it much more difficult for Cubans to remain legally in the U.S. and qualify under the act's protections.

While he won't ask President-elect Donald Trump to bring back the wet-foot/dry-foot policy, Rubio reiterated he'll push to reinstate the Cuban Medical Professional Parole Program that gave refuse to Cuban medical professionals forced to work abroad who defected to the U.S. In a statement Thursday, Rubio said he spoke to Vice President-elect Mike Pence about the issue.

Now that Cubans who arrive undocumented in the U.S. must request political asylum to try to remain in the country, Rubio said he hoped their asylum claims would be given a full hearing.

"I don't want to see stories about people who came that way," with legitimate claims of oppression, he added, "and were sent back to Cuba."