Marco Rubio might be taking the criticism of his shoddy Senate attendance record more personally than he’s let on.
Florida’s junior senator cancelled a lunch event in Iowa so he could be on Capitol Hill early Friday morning to cast a vote against a two-year budget deal worked out between the White House and congressional leaders. A campaign spokesperson said it was “routine” for Rubio to return to Washington for major votes and that he would be back on the campaign trail by Friday afternoon.
Rubio’s truancy, something he’s defended several different times in different ways, became a top issue for his rising candidacy this week after a Sun-Sentinel editorial, which endorsed his 2010 Senate bid, called on him to resign because he’s “ripping off” his constituents by neglecting his day job.
Rubio shrugged off the editorial, noting the editors didn’t call out then-Senators Barack Obama and John Kerry for missing votes while they ran for president.
“It’s evidence of the bias that exists in the American media today,” he said to cheers from the audience. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, struggling to remain relevant in the GOP race, sought to keep the issue alive, asking if the Senate is on a “French work week where you have three days to show up?”
“You can campaign, or just resign and let someone else take the job,” he added.
“I don’t remember you ever complaining about John McCain’s vote record,” Rubio fired back. “The only reason you’re doing it now is because someone has convinced you that attacking me will help you.”
The tough exchange has helped feed speculation that Bush’s campaign is no longer competitive.
Yet in the days since, talk of Rubio’s missed votes – he boasts the highest percentage not only among presidential contenders, but the entire Senate – has only grown.
On Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told Politico he thought Rubio should resign.
“Why shouldn’t he [resign]? He hates the Senate,” he said. “Why should the taxpayers of this country and people of Florida put up with having only one senator? Doesn’t seem fair to me.”
He called Rubio a “nonentity” in the Senate.
Meanwhile, the Sun-Sentinel doubled-down on its criticisms. In a new editorial, the newspaper said while it was “surprised to hear Rubio put himself in the same league as Obama and Kerry, we'd point out that Obama and Kerry were not our senators, and we don't recall them saying they hated their jobs in the Senate.
“Rubio, on the other hand, is our senator. And as such, he is accountable to Florida voters.”
The editorial board said Rubio vowed “he was going to fight for us and heaven knows, we've got big issues that need attention. But because he is off and running for the presidency, we find it incredibly hard to get Rubio's ear. The people of Florida, who know him best, deserve better.”