U.S. Senator, Florida
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What the experts are saying about Marco Rubio
Which GOP Candidate’s Tax Plan Is the Most Pro-Growth?
No, Rubio’s Plan Does Not Include an Individual Mandate
Yes, Marco Rubio’s Obamacare Replacement Plan — Tax Credits — Is An Individual Mandate
Marco Rubio’s Healthcare Plan Absolutely Does Not Contain An Individual Mandate
Debate Over the Cruz and Rubio Tax Plans
Marco Rubio is a first-term U.S. senator from Florida who previously served as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Rubio announced his campaign for the White House on April 13, 2015.
Rubio has been a reliable ally of conservative causes. He has supported lower taxes throughout his career as well as a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. He has supported free trade and deregulation, and market-oriented reforms to health care. He opposes cap-and-trade and other efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. His advocacy of a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill is likely to concern many conservatives, however.
He is the son of Cuban immigrants, and his heritage is considered by many political analysts to be a plus in reaching out to Hispanic voters, something the Republican Party has struggled with in recent years. Rubio is generally regarded as a skilled communicator. After term limits ended his nine-year tenure in the Florida House, he successfully challenged sitting Republican Gov. Charlie Crist for the 2010 GOP nomination for the U.S. Senate, starting 53 points down and ultimately forcing Crist to exit the nomination contest and run as an independent.
Rubio has generally been among those favored to win the GOP nomination, though for much of the year he consistently polled in the middle of the pack, rarely breaking 10 percent in national polls and lagging his rivals in the early states as well. That changed with a better-than-expected third-place finish in the Iowa caucuses that brought him new support nationally, although he came in fifth in New Hampshire following an uncharacteristically poor showing in a debate the weekend before. He rebounded with a strong second-place finish in the South Carolina primary and followed with another second-place finish in Nevada, but Super Tuesday was mostly a disappointment. He won only the Minnesota caucuses while finishing third place in most other states, finishing second only in Georgia and Virginia.
Rubio has built a capable and well-run campaign organization, and his fundraising numbers have been very strong as well. He is one of the most gifted speakers in public life today and remains a serious contender for the GOP nomination in 2016. He currently is in third place in the delegate count.
Marco Rubio was born May 28, 1971, in Miami, Fla. He is the third child of Mario Rubio and Oria Garcia, both of whom immigrated to the United States in 1956 and were naturalized as U.S. citizens in 1975.1
Rubio grew up in the Miami area, with a stint in Nevada between 1979 and 1985. He graduated from high school in 1989 and attended Tarkio College on a football scholarship from 1989 to 1990. After one year he enrolled at Santa Fe Community College, Rubio later transferred to the University of Florida and earned a degree in political science in 1993. He then attended the University of Miami School of Law, where he graduated cum laude in 1996.2 As a law student he interned for U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican and the first Cuban-American elected to Congress.
His first run for public office was in 1998, a successful campaign for city commissioner in West Miami. He then ran in a special election for a vacant Florida House seat in 2000, winning a competitive primary and fairly easy general election. He rapidly advanced in leadership, becoming majority whip, then majority leader, then in November 2006 being elected speaker of the Florida House.3
Term limits pushed Rubio out of the speaker’s office, and he left office in January 2009. Rubio started his own law firm and also landed a teaching position at Florida International University as well as a spot as a political commentator at Univision.4 That year he declared himself a candidate for the Senate in the 2010 election cycle and overcame a 53-point deficit to take control of the nomination battle so convincingly that Crist, the incumbent governor, dropped out of the nomination fight and ran instead as an independent. Rubio defeated Crist as well as Democrat Kendrick Meek, receiving nearly 49 percent of the vote.5
Rubio has been married to Jeanette Dousdebes since 1998. She is a former Miami Dolphins cheerleader and bank teller, of Colombian descent.6 They have four children. He and his family live in West Miami, Fla. The Rubio family attends a Southern Baptist church as well as Catholic services.7
Rubio has generally been consistent on issues and worked hard to fulfill his campaign promises. There is little to suggest that his personal and professional ethics are lacking, or that there have been significant moral lapses in his past.8
His history demonstrates a long-term commitment to the conservative principles he espouses and that guide him. An early example of Rubio’s efforts to keep campaign promises was a book he created as speaker of the Florida House, 100 Innovative Ideas For Florida’s Future, that outlined a legislative agenda he pledged to pursue. The promises included a better website for the state’s budget, bringing Hollywood productions to Florida, and reducing taxes and property insurance premiums.
According to Rubio, all 100 measures were passed by the Florida House, with 57 of them passing the Senate and being enacted into law.9
Although that claim requires some generous accounting of what passed and in what form, it’s clear that Rubio did all that might be expected to get legislation passed reflecting the agenda outlined in 100 Innovative Ideas For Florida’s Future.
Rubio’s most significant departure from his free-market principles as a Florida legislator involved expansion of the state’s catastrophic insurance fund, which he supported, and as speaker he punished two legislators who voted against the plan.10 Some have suggested Rubio caved for political reasons to the then-popular and newly-elected governor, but if so, he clearly found the will to stand up against the governor later in his speakership by suing him over a gambling deal negotiated with the Seminole Indians.11
As a U.S. senator, Rubio has consistently upheld his pledges to oppose tax increases, oppose climate change regulations,12 and he otherwise voted largely in line with the conservative, limited-government perspective he shared as a candidate – except on immigration.
As a candidate, Rubio announced that he opposed “amnesty,” which he said included anything that allowed those in the U.S. illegally to remain and have the opportunity to become citizens. As a senator, however, Rubio helped to craft the so-called “Gang of Eight” immigration reform package that allows currently illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. and gain legal status, and eventually have an opportunity to become citizens.13
Following intense opposition to the bill from conservatives and others, Rubio announced he no longer supported the “Gang of Eight” bill and favored passing several pieces of more modest legislation that each addresses fewer immigration issues.
Some have suggested he embellished his parents’ story of emigrating from Cuba to the U.S. as political refugees, given that they arrived in the U.S. before Castro took power. Rubio has explained the discrepancy as based on his recollections as a child of his parents’ explanation of how they came to the U.S., and has since corrected the record.14
As speaker of the Florida House, Rubio was given a credit card by the state Republican Party for political expenses as he worked to help promote Republican candidates. Some of the charges on the card were for personal expenses, which Rubio said were authorized by the party so long as he reimbursed the party for those expenses.15
In Rubio’s personal life, there is little hint of scandal, unethical behavior, or other indicators suggesting significant moral lapses.
Rubio is widely regarded as an effective communicator, one of the reasons he was selected to introduce Mitt Romney at the 2012 Republican National Convention and to give the Republican response to Obama’s State of the Union speech in 2013. His introduction of Romney was termed “captivating” by The Washington Post,16 and his State of the Union speech was generally well regarded although he was criticized for taking a drink of water halfway through.17
He also possesses considerable political skills, as his come-from-behind win in the 2010 nomination fight with Crist demonstrated. He performed well in debates, and showed a good grasp of the facts regarding policies and issues.18
Rubio was selected by his fellow Republicans in the Florida State House to serve as party whip, majority leader, and then speaker of the House, which also demonstrates significant political savvy and the ability to work with and gain the respect of his colleagues, not to mention ambition. As party whip, he preferred persuasion over arm-twisting, according to colleagues, and once in the speaker’s office, he delegated and decentralized power by giving more authority to committee chairs.19
During the two years before being elected speaker of the House, Rubio traveled Florida holding what he called “idea raisers,” where he solicited citizens’ input on policies and legislation that would improve the state. Many of the ideas from the events became the basis for his 100 Ideas book, and his statewide tour was hailed as “a work of genius” by former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.20
His committee assignments include Commerce and Foreign Relations, generally considered to be among the higher-prestige committees, suggesting he enjoys the confidence of his colleagues in terms of his knowledge and seriousness.
As a legislator in Florida, Rubio worked across party lines on several occasions and reached out to non-typical Republican constituencies. For example, he spoke to migrant agricultural workers and co-sponsored legislation allowing them to sue farmers who failed to pay them.21
Rubio’s most significant coalition-building accomplishment to date was the introduction and passage in the U.S. Senate of the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill. While widely criticized by many conservatives, his work on immigration does show a willingness and ability to work with political opposites to achieve consensus. Rubio has also worked with Democratic Sen. Coons of Delaware to extend many business tax breaks and expand legal immigration for high-skill workers, measures that generally enjoy broad support in both parties.22
Rubio has regularly promoted conservative ideas. His proposal to eliminate property taxes in Florida in exchange for a hike in the sales tax gained him national attention, and while perhaps neither conservative or liberal, it does suggest a willingness to think outside the box and promote bold reforms.23
In January 2014 Rubio proposed eliminating the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and replacing it with a low-wage subsidy. The EITC has been widely criticized by many conservatives for its high degree of fraud and abuse.24 He also co-authored an op-ed with Sen. Mike Lee of Utah advocating for fundamental reform of the personal tax code, arguing for a simpler system with two rates of 15 percent and 35 percent with the elimination of many deductions and credits.25
Rubio also scored what has turned out to be a major victory for opponents of Obamacare, helping to lead the charge against a provision of the health care law that the Obama administration was planning to use to bail out insurance companies who lost money on the exchanges.26 Rubio’s change to the law meant no taxpayer dollars could be used for the bailout, only funds collected from other insurers, which has led several insurers, including the nation’s largest, to consider ending their participation in the exchanges.27
Rubio has also not hesitated to challenge liberal positions and officeholders. In February 2014, Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin returned from a trip to Cuba and extolled the virtues of the communist country’s health care system. Rubio promptly launched a blistering rebuttal of Harkin’s comments, describing the numerous repressive policies Cuba has toward dissidents as well as the Castro regime’s untrustworthiness regarding the quality of health care provided in the communist dictatorship.28
In the past Rubio has advocated for making the Bush tax cuts permanent, cutting the corporate tax rate in exchange for eliminating deductions and exemptions, and an overall lower level of taxation that will help the economy grow.29 Along with Coons of Delaware, he has taken the lead in extending various business-friendly tax provisions that generally are set to expire on an annual basis. While these tax provisions, which include breaks for research and development as well as capital investment, can be seen as maintaining the complexity and favoritism embedded in the current tax code and therefore at odds with free-market thinking, without these extensions the overall level of taxation would increase and further stunt an already lagging economy.30
Rubio outlined in April 2015 a proposed individual tax reform plan that would have only two rates, 15 and 35 percent, in exchange for eliminating many deductions and exemptions.31 Deductions for charitable contributions and mortgage interest would remain. He later revised his plan in October 2015 to include a 25 percent tax bracket. For businesses, Rubio would have a 25 percent tax rate and allow immediate expensing of capital investments. Capital gains and dividend income would be tax-free.32
In September 2015, Rubio proposed federal tax credits to employers who provide paid medical and maternity or paternity leave, up to $4,000 per employee.33 He has also called for reducing the federal gas tax by 80 percent, instead giving states greater authority over transportation spending (and presumably raising their own gas taxes).34
He voted against the “fiscal cliff” deal at the end of 2012 that renewed most of the 2002 Bush tax cuts but increased taxes on higher-income earners.35
Budget & Spending
Rubio has been a staunch advocate of cutting federal spending. Among other proposals, he has called for spending on non-defense programs to be frozen at 2008 levels, and he supports a balanced budget amendment.36 He has submitted legislation to return approximately $45 billion in federal funds sitting unused in accounts, as well as to eliminate earmarks.
Rubio has also supported legislation to reduce the federal workforce by 10 percent over four years through attrition.37 According to an analysis by the National Taxpayers Union Foundation, Rubio has introduced legislation that would, if enacted, total a $330 billion annual cut in federal spending.38
Rubio opposed the Paul Ryan budget in 2011 that raised spending in the short term in exchange for promised spending cuts in 2022 and 2023,39 arguing that it added $60 billion in spending in the short term that was likely to wind up being continued instead of eliminated over time.40 In 2011, Rubio voted against the budget deal that included sequestration, citing its failure to deal with the long-term debt problem, avoid potential credit downgrades, and didn’t shrink government or address health care costs.41
Rubio has announced his opposition to the October 2015 budget and debt-limit deal that raises spending caps in exchange for future budget cuts.42
Rubio has proposed repealing Davis-Bacon, a Depression-era law that requires contractors on building projects using federal funds to pay union-scale wages, which are typically higher than the market rate.43
Rubio has released his own plan for replacing Obamacare and reforming health care. The plan centers on refundable tax credits available to all Americans to purchase insurance, establishment of federally-funded high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions, and expanded use of Health Savings Accounts.44 He would also transition Medicare to a premium-support plan.
Rubio campaigned against Obamacare in his 2010 election, and has been a reliable vote to repeal it.45 Rubio has spoken in favor of block granting Medicaid to the states, along with other means-tested welfare programs.46
Entitlements & Welfare
On entitlements, Rubio has staked out relatively aggressive positions favoring fundamental reforms, including raising the Social Security and Medicare eligibility ages over time, rising to age 70 by 2098.47 He has also voiced support for turning Medicare into a ‘premium support’ plan, where individuals receive a fixed amount of money and obtain coverage in what would presumably be a tightly-controlled market.48
Rubio has spoken about how entitlements have ‘weakened’ the American public. In a 2011 address at the Ronald Reagan Library, he explained that at one time it was the role of individuals, families, local communities, and local faith-based institutions to care for the sick and impoverished, while today the government has taken on that role. These types of comments are likely to endear Rubio to a large number of Republicans of both the libertarian/limited government variety as well as more socially conservative members of the Republican coalition.49
On the issue of free trade Rubio has voted regularly to approve major trade deals.50 He has supported continued subsidies to sugar producers however, justifying his vote on the basis that other countries subsidize their sugar industries as well and it would put U.S. producers at a disadvantage to lose their support.51
Aside from his vote to keep sugar subsidies, Rubio has generally supported reforms to the U.S. system of agricultural subsidies, including voting for measures that would impose income caps on those eligible for subsidies.52
Energy & Environment
On energy and environmental issues, Rubio has been outspoken in his support for expanded energy production including drilling in Alaska, off the continental shelf, and in Western lands where shale oil is abundant. He has also signaled his support for nuclear energy, and has endorsed the Keystone XL pipeline being held up by the Obama administration.53 He supports allowing the export of crude oil from the U.S.54
As a state legislator in Florida he supported fairly modest incentives supporting solar energy and hybrid vehicles, such as allowing free or reduced-price use of the state’s toll roads by hybrid vehicles. For the most part, however, Rubio’s positions on subsidies for alternative energy boondoggles fit well within the conservative mainstream. He has spoken out against the Solyndra loans55 and similar corporate-welfare giveaways aimed at ‘green’ energy projects, and opposes any form of cap-and-trade or carbon tax based on fears about climate change.56
He has stated that he is skeptical of the claims of climate change alarmists. Rubio also co-sponsored legislation that would prevent the President from imposing stringent regulations on coal power plants that would effectively shut them down and raise energy prices. He has fought against EPA’s efforts to regulate Florida’s streams, rivers, and lakes.57 He favors giving states a greater responsibility for regulating energy.58
Rubio has been a reliable defender of property rights. As a state legislator he led the effort to pass legislation protecting private property by sharply limiting the purposes eminent domain could be used for in order to take private property for public use.59 He also is a co-sponsor of legislation that would nullify an EPA rule granting the agency the authority to regulate vast new areas of land under the Water Pollution Control Act.60
Rubio signed on as a co-sponsor of Senator Rand Paul’s REINS Act, an effort to scale back overregulation by requiring Congress to vote to directly approve all major regulations, defined as those costing the economy more than $100 million.61 He also opposes net neutrality; the government’s attempt to regulate the internet,62 and proposed a ‘National Regulatory Budget’ that would cap the total cost to the economy from regulations.63
Rubio was a member of the “Gang of Eight” that introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill, which was criticized heavily by many conservatives because, among other provisions, it provided a pathway to citizenship for many illegal aliens. He has since backed off of his support for a comprehensive bill, arguing instead that a piecemeal approach should be taken, with border-enforcement measures coming first.64
Rubio’s overall stance on immigration 65 is that the border should be secured, illegal immigrants currently here should be allowed to remain (presuming no additional criminal activity), and legal immigration should be expanded, particularly in regard to highly skilled workers.
He summarized his position in an interview by saying, “The first two things you have to do is stop illegal immigration, then second you have to modernize our legal immigration system, and then third you can have a debate about how to even legalize people to begin with. And then ultimately in 10 or 12 years you could have a broader debate about how has this worked out and should we allow some of them to apply for green cards and eventually citizenship.”66
More recently, Rubio has signed on as a co-sponsor of legislation that would crack down on so-called “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration officials.67 He also said he would end the Obama program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which permits illegal aliens who entered the country as young children to remain in the U.S. without fear of deportation.68
Banking & Finance
Rubio voted in favor of legislation delaying the Dodd-Frank price controls on credit card fees charged to retailers,69 and also voted against the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, which he termed corporate welfare.70 He has recently announced his opposition to giving the territory of Puerto Rico the ability to declare bankruptcy in the face of its mounting public debt.71
Rubio has opposed corporate welfare including the Export-Import Bank72 and the insurer bailouts included in Obamacare although he has supported subsidies for sugar growers and as a state legislator was instrumental in pushing for a $60 million state subsidy to build a new stadium for the Florida Marlins.73
Rubio has also said he believes the renewable fuels standard, which requires refiners each year to blend billions of gallons of ethanol, biodiesel, and other alternative fuels into gasoline and diesel, should continue through 2022, explaining the program shouldn’t be abruptly ended because “[p]eople have made investments in it … it would be unfair to yank it away from them in the middle of it.”74
Rubio favors a “two state solution” regarding Israel and the Palestinians, but has said the conditions don’t currently exist to allow that, specifically citing the lack of “responsible leadership” in the Palestinian government.75
Rubio unveiled the “Rubio Doctrine” in May 2015, anchored on three tenets. First, a strong military, which requires undoing the sequester budget cuts to defense spending. Second, the U.S. military and diplomacy should be used to defend U.S. economic interests such as protecting shipping lanes and opposing economic disruption caused by one nation’s invasion of another. Third, he called for “Moral clarity regarding America’s core values,” and said “We must recognize that our nation is a global leader not just because it has superior arms, but because it has superior aims.”76
He harshly criticized the Obama administration’s decision to begin normalizing ties with Cuba.77 Addressing the issue in May 2015, Rubio said that as president “I would reimpose sanctions that could only be lifted through reciprocal steps on behalf of the Cubans. In essence, if they want more telecommunications opening, then the Cuban government will have to allow freedom of the press. If they want more engagement with American business and travel, then they will have to allow more democratic opening for alternative groups in society.”78
On Ukraine, Rubio has favored stiffening sanctions against Russia, helping the nation to stabilize its economy through a currency board that would set a fixed convertibility rate either the Euro or the dollar. He is a co-sponsor of legislation authorizing the president to provide weaponry to Ukraine to allow it to defend itself from Russia,79 and has described Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main goal as rebuilding his country into a major geopolitical force.80 Rubio favors additional sanctions preventing state-owned firms from doing business in the West as well as positioning more NATO troops in the Baltic nations.81
He has criticized China’s building of islands with military airstrips in international waters, calling them “illegitimate” and saying he supported having U.S. Navy ships transit the areas to affirm they are international waters.82 He has also said the U.S. should respond in kind to cyberattacks, pointing to the apparent hacking of the Office of Personnel Management’s computers by the Chinese,83 but urged caution regarding Chinese currency manipulation charges saying the U.S. shouldn’t start a “currency war” with China.84
Rubio has also called for the U.S. to strengthen its ties with Taiwan, including stepping up sales of military equipment and bringing it into international trade organizations.85
Rubio serves on the Foreign Relations Committee and is the ranking member of the subcommittee handling East Asian and Pacific affairs, and also sits on the Select Committee on Intelligence.
War on Terror
Rubio has favored keeping military options on the table regarding Iran and Syria.86 He has supported keeping sanctions on Iran and strengthening them until it abandons their nuclear weapons program, and also urged the Obama administration to relist North Korea as a state-sponsor of terrorism because of that nation’s support for Iran and Syria.87
In March 2015 Rubio was among a group of 47 Republican Senators who signed an open letter to the Iranian regime explaining any deal negotiated between the Obama administration and Tehran that was not approved by Congress could be undone by executive action of the next President.88 He also said the U.S. should have insisted Iran give up its ballistic missile program as part of any deal89 and that if elected president he would reimpose sanctions on Iran.90
Rubio favored arming moderate Syrian rebels at the beginning of the struggle against Assad, and expressed concern early on that Libya would become a safe haven for terrorists after the fall of Gadhafi, where he argued the U.S. should have engaged “fully and decisively.”91 He has also said he would consider putting U.S. troops on the ground in Iraq to combat ISIS.92
Rubio originally said he was open to accepting large numbers of Syrian refugees, but he expressed concern about ensuring terrorists were effectively screened out.93 Following the November 2015 attacks in Paris in which at least one of the ISIS terrorists had come to France as a refugee, he said there was no satisfactory way to vet all of the refugees and he would oppose bringing any of them to the U.S.94
On Iraq he has said based on what is now know known about Iraq’s lack of weapons of mass destruction he would not have supported the invasion.95 He would provide greater support to Saudi Arabia in its fight against extremists and rebels in Yemen, including putting U.S. special operations forces on the ground.96
He has supported extension of the wiretap provisions of the Patriot Act97 and also keeping Guantanamo open as a prison for terrorists and enemy combatants.98 He also has referred to Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor who stole classified information about American surveillance programs before fleeing to China and then Russia, as a “traitor.”99
Military Preparedness & Budget
Rubio signed a letter urging defense cuts required under sequestration be replaced with cuts elsewhere,100 and wrote in a March 2015 op-ed that “Our highest priority during the ongoing budget debate should be undoing the damage caused by defense sequestration and the hundreds of billions of dollars of defense cuts made by the Obama administration.”101
In 2015 Rubio spoke primarily about American exceptionalism during a speech to the Conservative Political Action Conference, saying, “For over two centuries we’ve been an exceptional nation, a place founded on the belief that every man, woman, and child was born with a God-given right to life, and liberty, and to pursue happiness… Americans know we’re exceptional. And you know who else knows we’re exceptional? The world does. After all, when was the last time you heard about a boatload of American refugees arriving on the shores of another country?”102
Judiciary & Crime
Rubio has pledged that if elected president, he would “nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.”103 He has called the Roe v. Wade decision “egregiously flawed”104 and “blatant judicial activism”105
Rubio said that he “disagreed” with the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell (Obamacare tax credits), saying they “once again erred in trying to correct the mistakes made by President Obama and Congress.”106 Rubio also said that he “disagreed” with the court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, but also stressed that “we live in a republic and must abide by the law.”107 He called the Citizens United v. FEC decision “victory for those who truly value the freedoms outlined in our First Amendment.”
In 2013 Rubio proposed what was described as “the most far-reaching school choice legislation in U.S. history,” a plan that would allow low-income parents to use vouchers from private organizations that receive funding through a new federal tax credit available to both individuals and corporations. The proposal is in line with Rubio’s long-standing support of school choice, going back to his advocacy for Florida’s voucher program that relies on a similar funding mechanism.108
Rubio also signed on as a co-sponsor of legislation that would convert up to $14 billion in federal Title I school aid to be converted to school vouchers for low-income students, and has expressed his opposition to the federal Common Core standards.109
On higher education issues, Rubio has proposed creation of a new accreditation process that would allow new, low-cost providers of college education to offer their services to students. He also favors developing a progressive payment process for student loans that would tie repayment to income110 and requiring schools to let students know what they are likely to earn with a degree in a given field.111
Free Speech & Religious Liberty
On First Amendment issues Rubio voted against the DISCLOSE Act, which would restrict political speech and expose donors to independent advocacy groups to harassment and retaliation.112
Rubio also supported the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case, favoring religious liberty against government mandates,113 and introduced legislation amending the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to specifically protect employers who do not want to be forced to provide contraceptive coverage under Obamacare.114
In the case of a Kentucky county clerk refusing to issue marriage licenses in response to the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, he has said the clerk’s office should issue licenses but the clerk’s religious objections should be protected as well.115
Rubio supported an Arizona immigration law116 based on 10th Amendment principles and as a candidate in 2009 expressed strong support for the 10th Amendment.
He is the co-sponsor of a federal ban on Internet gambling, something a New York Times article noted puts Rubio “at odds with movement conservatives (i.e. federalists) who believe that, under the Constitution, states should have the right to decide for themselves whether to legalize online gaming.”117
In a February 2016 campaign trip to Nevada, a state where prostitution is legal, Rubio said while he thinks prostitution should be illegal, he would not favor a federal law prohibiting it, saying it should be up to the voters of Nevada to decide.118
Rubio has consistently supported individual gun rights, and recently received an A grade from the National Rifle Association after introducing legislation rolling back gun control laws in Washington DC. 119 Prior to that, he had a B+ from the group, largely based on his record in the Florida legislature.120 As speaker of the House he helped push through the state’s “Stand Your Ground” legislation that protects an individual’s right to use a gun in self-defense instead having to retreat,121 but was seen as not sufficiently supportive of a bill allowing employees to bring firearms onto their employers’ property.122 Following the December 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, he criticized Obama’s gun control proposals and said the focus should be on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.123 He also said he opposes barring people on federal government watch lists from purchasing guns, citing the large number of people on the lists with no connection to terrorism.124
Rubio is pro-life, and believes abortion should only be legal in cases where the life of the mother is jeopardized.125 He has supported legislation in the past that includes such exceptions however.126 He was a sponsor of the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act that would have prohibited taking a minor to another state for an abortion in order to evade state parental consent or notification laws, and also require abortion providers notify parents in the case of an out-of-state minor seeking an abortion.127 The legislation did not pass.
Rubio has stated he believes marriage is only between a man and a woman,128 and that he opposes the Supreme Court’s decision on the issue.129 He has also said he opposes a constitutional amendment overturning the court’s ruling, saying that it should be left up to each state to determine its own marriage laws.130
The single biggest vulnerability that Rubio would face in a presidential nomination contest is his both his position and history of flip-flops on the immigration issue. Opponents of amnesty, however that term is defined, are likely to be unhappy with his support for the Gang of Eight comprehensive reform bill that allowed most illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S. with a pathway to citizenship. Even some who support his position may be troubled by his original opposition to such a policy while campaigning in 2010, later support, and then his backing away from the legislation after encountering fierce opposition from many conservatives.131
Rubio has missed nearly a third of U.S. Senate votes between January and October of 2015.132 He has defended his record, saying voting is only a small part of his job as a senator,133 but it is likely to be an issue in his pursuit of the GOP nomination and the general election if he is the Republican candidate.
Rubio’s co-ownership of a Florida house with longtime friend and fellow state legislator David Rivera will be a problem. The house began foreclosure proceedings in 2010, although Rubio and Rivera quickly brought the mortgage current. More problematic for Rubio, Rivera is currently under investigation for serious campaign finance and political corruption charges.134 The house was finally sold in early June of 2015.135
Rubio’s use of a credit card provided by the Republican Party of Florida for personal expenses is also likely to be brought up by opponents.136
Finally, Rubio’s youth and relative inexperience could be liabilities on the campaign trail. Although he held positions of leadership in the Florida State House the fact remains he is still a first-term U.S. senator without a substantial track record on the national stage.
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