WASHINGTON – Sen. Marco Rubio has made opposition to the Iran nuclear deal a focus of his re-election campaign, using it to assert that Democratic opponent Patrick Murphy is weak on the issue.
But as Rubio presents himself as an expert on Iran and the Middle East in general, his attendance problems come back into view.
Murphy has said little about the Iran accord, but last summer expressed support with some reservations.
“On balance, I cannot let possibilities a decade or more in the future, however troubling, outweigh the immediate benefits of this agreement,” Murphy said. “Under the current sanctions Iran's breakout time to obtaining a nuclear weapon is just three months; this agreement expands that to a full year and reduces Iran's stockpiles of low-enriched uranium by 98 percentNodding to the sensitive politics surrounding the accord, Murphy added: "I believe deeply in the unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel. This debate has proven to me that America and Israel are fortunate to have so many passionate, diverse voices who all want the same things: a nuclear-free Iran, a secure Israel, and peace in our time.”
Rubio’s attendance issue has followed him from one campaign trail to another. Murphy and Democrats have tried to amplify Rubio’s refusal to commit to serving a full six-year term as he could run for president again, as early as 2020.
Murphy has challenged Rubio, who broke a vow not to seek re-election, to sign a pledge that he would serve the full term.“I am committed to serving in the U.S. Senate and it is a six-year term,” Rubio in a recent TV interview in Florida, carefully choosing his words. “The only thing I have said is no one can tell you for sure where they are going to be five years from now because things happen in life.”
Rubio’s office has said that when he skips hearings he is briefed by staff and that through the Intelligence Committee he has access to classified briefings and overnight cables. An aide also pointed out he sponsored or co-sponsored “at least 26 Iran-focused bills” during the 114th Congress.
--ALEX LEARY, Tampa Bay Times