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With Marco Rubio’s announcement that he is running for President, a third first-term Republican Senator is now in the race. Yet Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, brings more in terms of political experience.
In 2000 Rubio was first elected to the Florida House of Representatives. By 2003 he had ascended to the Speakership. In 2009 he announced his intention to run for an open U.S. Senate, but was widely considered an underdog as the sitting Republican Governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, also was running for the seat. After Rubio beat Crist in the Republican primary, the latter left the party to run as an independent. Rubio then easily won the resulting three-way general election, taking 49% of the vote to the second place Crist’s 30%.
Rubio has a law degree from the University of Miami. Prior to his run for office, he interned for Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, worked on Senator Bob Dole’s 1996 Presidential campaign, and served as City Commissioner for West Miami.
The conservative Heritage Foundation ranked Rubio 4th among Senators in the previous Congress with a score of 82%, though he received a 96% in the prior session. The free-market Club For Growth ranked him 7th in 2014 with a score of 92%, and a lifetime mark of 93%.
On Foreign Policy
Rubio sits on the Senate Committees on both Foreign Relations and Intelligence, and all indications suggest that he will feature foreign policy prominently in his presidential campaign. Over the years his speeches and positions suggest a hawkish vision for foreign affairs, and he has been critical of elements in the party advocating for restraint overseas.
At a time when many other Republicans were questioning the rationale for involvement in Libya in 2011, Rubio authored a letter urging Senate support for the use of force, stating that “removing Muammar Qaddafi from power is in our national interest.”
His Libyan stance is consistent with Rubio’s continued support for the Iraq war and his belief that “the world is better off because Saddam Hussein is no longer in charge.” And he has similarly pushed for blanket authority for military action to fight ISIS, recently arguing that, “The threat from Islamic extremism is only growing and without greater leadership from the United States, I fear that it will only be a matter of time before innocent Americans pay the ultimate price…”
Rubio also advocated arming Syrian rebels, arguing in an op-ed that “it’s in the national interest of the United States for Bashar al-Assad to leave. It’s in our national interest for that government to fall.” In justification he said, “the United States has always stood on the side of human rights, should always continue to stand on the side of democracy.”
In a speech given last year more broadly laying out his vision on foreign policy, Rubio said, “There have always been those who argue that America shouldn’t concern herself with the affairs of the world – that what happens an ocean away bears little relevance to our people.” In contrast he observed, “Thankfully, there have also always been those who disagree – who argue that foreign policy is domestic policy, that our people’s interests and safety require defense capabilities so robust that they deter aggression and violence before they take hold around the world.”
He was also critical of President Obama’s record, warning that, “Our adversaries are emboldened by what they perceive as our diminished military presence… The president’s foreign policy was once a failure – now it is simply non-existent. From Libya to Syria to Egypt to Ukraine, this administration simply shrugs as threats fester.”
In his speech Rubio also referred to Edward Snowden as a traitor, while warning that, “When we cease collecting on legitimate targets, we reduce our awareness.”
In a recent op-ed Rubio further argued that we cannot afford to “curtail intelligence gathering capabilities that have been legally and painstakingly established following [the 9/11] attacks.” He added, “The U.S. government should implore American technology companies to cooperate with authorities so that we can better track terrorist activity and monitor terrorist communications as we face the increasing challenge of homegrown terrorists radicalized by little more than what they see on the Internet.”
Like his fellow Republicans, Rubio opposes Obamacare and supports free market alternatives. He describes in an op-ed three elements necessary to “mitigate the fallout that will come with the collapse of [Obamacare], and to meet the long-term goal of replacing it with conservative solutions.” Those items include first a refundable tax credit for all Americans to use in purchasing health insurance, along with “[setting] the tax preference for employer-sponsored insurance on a glide path to ensure that it will equal the level of the credits at the end of the decade. This will prevent large-scale disruptions and reform one of the most significant distortions in our tax system.”
Second, he wants to reform insurance regulations through expansion of health savings accounts, options for “Americans living in high-cost states” to “have the opportunity to purchase coverage across state lines,” and “under no circumstances should taxpayers be asked to bail out an insurance company that loses money.”
Third, he says “we must save Medicare and Medicaid by placing them on fiscally sustainable paths.” Specifically, he wants to, “move Medicaid into a per-capita cap system, preserving funding for Medicaid’s unique populations while freeing states from Washington mandates. Medicare, meanwhile, should be transitioned into a premium support system, empowering seniors with choice and market competition, just like Medicare Advantage and Part D already do.”
On Criminal Justice
Weighing in on Eric Holder’s resignation, Rubio criticized what he describes as “a politicized Justice Department” that in recent years “has refused to defend bipartisan legislation in court and resisted congressional oversight.” In contrast to Holder’s reign, Rubio called for “a nominee to lead the Justice Department who is fully committed to vigorous application of our nation’s Constitution and laws without political bias or personal agenda.”
While acknowledging that “individuals from a variety of perspectives have made a compelling case that American law has been over-criminalized and over-federalized,” he also warned against “careless weakening of drug laws that have done so much to help end the violence and mayhem that plagued American cities in prior decades.”