Wait, Marco Rubio Would Shut Down the Government Over Obamacare?

The Florida Republican was an establishment favorite on immigration. Now he’s an insurgent with a new cause.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference in Washington, Thursday, June 13, 2013.
National Journal
Jill Lawrence
Add to Briefcase
Jill Lawrence
Aug. 12, 2013, 2 a.m.

Sen. Marco Ru­bio of Flor­ida won praise from the Re­pub­lic­an es­tab­lish­ment and lost tea-party sup­port by play­ing a lead role in this year’s push for im­mig­ra­tion re­form. Now he’s turned that dy­nam­ic on its head by join­ing Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Ken­tucky at the fore­front of a drive to shut down the gov­ern­ment un­less Obama­care is de­fun­ded.

Ru­bio’s pen­du­lum swing may or may not ul­ti­mately ap­pease those angry about the pivotal help he provided to win pas­sage of the Sen­ate’s com­pre­hens­ive im­mig­ra­tion bill, with its path to cit­izen­ship for most un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants. What’s already cer­tain is that some es­tab­lish­ment fig­ures who ap­plauded him on im­mig­ra­tion, in­clud­ing Sens. John Mc­Cain of Ari­zona and Lind­sey Gra­ham of South Car­o­lina, are now serving up dis­ap­prov­al. Oth­er Re­pub­lic­an crit­ics of the shut­down threat in­clude Sens. Tom Coburn of Ok­lahoma and Richard Burr of North Car­o­lina, as well as 2012 pres­id­en­tial nom­in­ee Mitt Rom­ney.

Busi­ness lob­by­ists are also dis­missive, with sev­er­al telling Na­tion­al Journ­al that Ru­bio & Co. are ig­nor­ing facts on the ground — to wit, a Demo­crat­ic pres­id­ent and Sen­ate. Con­ser­vat­ive colum­nist Charles Krau­tham­mer called the de­fund­ing ef­fort “nuts.” Com­ment­ary writer Peter Wehner, a White House aide dur­ing the Re­agan, Bush I, and Bush II ad­min­is­tra­tions, got per­son­al with a column head­lined “Marco Ru­bio’s Folly.”

What’s more, Ru­bio may be sow­ing con­fu­sion about his polit­ic­al iden­tity as he heads to­ward a widely ex­pec­ted run for pres­id­ent in 2016. Would he be an es­tab­lish­ment con­tender, along the lines of a Chris Christie, Scott Walk­er, or Jeb Bush, or an in­sur­gent like Paul or Cruz? “It ap­pears right now as if the path is not clear for Ru­bio. And some­times if one foot is in each camp, neither camp ad­opts you as their own,” says Uni­versity of New Hamp­shire polit­ic­al sci­ent­ist Dante Scala, an ex­pert on the state’s first-in-the-na­tion primary.

What set off Wehner was Ru­bio’s as­ser­tion to ra­dio host Mark Lev­in last week that “if you’re will­ing to fund this thing, you can’t pos­sibly say you’re against it.” In oth­er words, he’ll vote against a bill to keep the gov­ern­ment run­ning un­less the meas­ure cuts off money for Pres­id­ent Obama’s health care law.

 “So is that the new Ru­bio stand­ard?” Wehner asks. “Are we to be­lieve he sup­por­ted every item fun­ded in every budget bill he voted for while serving in the Flor­ida Le­gis­lature? Or that in the fu­ture he’ll sup­port every pro­gram of every budget he votes for in the United States Sen­ate?”

Wehner also takes is­sue with Ru­bio’s damn-the-polit­ics at­ti­tude to­ward a gov­ern­ment shut­down un­less the pres­id­ent agrees to de­fund Obama­care, and ques­tions wheth­er Ru­bio and the oth­er mem­bers of what he calls “the Sui­cide Caucus” are tethered to real­ity, giv­en that Obama and the Demo­crat­ic Sen­ate will nev­er “pull the plug” on that sig­na­ture achieve­ment.

Be­ing a ringlead­er on the road to a gov­ern­ment shut­down could well be ris­ki­er than be­ing a cheer­lead­er for a path to cit­izen­ship. There are plenty of GOP pres­id­en­tial pro­spects who share Ru­bio’s views on im­mig­ra­tion, or have sim­il­ar views, or will by 2015, when the party’s dire need for His­pan­ic out­reach and votes in a na­tion­al race be­comes im­possible to ig­nore. Fur­ther­more, wheth­er it suc­ceeds or fails, im­mig­ra­tion re­form will be in the rear­view mir­ror by then and not all that sa­li­ent to the na­tion­al con­ver­sa­tion.

“Time would do the best for Marco Ru­bio, more than any­thing,” says Craig Robin­son, a GOP strategist in Iowa, home of the first caucuses of the primary sea­son. And he’ll need that time if he’s go­ing to bring con­ser­vat­ives back in­to his fold. “I think it is go­ing to be a while be­fore they’re mes­mer­ized by Marco Ru­bio again,” says Robin­son, who runs a web­site called The Iowa Re­pub­lic­an.

Ru­bio ran against Obama­care in his 2010 cam­paign and has been a con­sist­ent op­pon­ent of the Af­ford­able Care Act. Also, after vot­ing once for a stop­gap budget meas­ure to keep the gov­ern­ment run­ning, he has since voted against all such meas­ures, called con­tinu­ing res­ol­u­tions. He’s now say­ing he will vote for a second CR, due next month, but only if it de­funds Obama­care. “There’s a lot of grass­roots sup­port for this po­s­i­tion. You’ve seen most of the con­ser­vat­ive or­gan­iz­a­tions sup­port­ing this, as well as lead­ing con­ser­vat­ives out­side of Con­gress say­ing that this is the right ap­proach,” says Ru­bio spokes­man Alex Con­ant. He also says of Ru­bio, “It would be weird if he wasn’t fight­ing to re­peal Obama­care.”

But that misses the point. Pretty much all the Re­pub­lic­ans in Con­gress op­pose the health care law. It’s the gov­ern­ment-shut­down threat most of them are ques­tion­ing, be­cause, un­like the out­side groups and in­di­vidu­als, they are wor­ried about the real-world im­pact of such a drastic de­vel­op­ment — on Amer­ic­ans and on the GOP.

Vet­er­an Re­pub­lic­an strategist Rich Ga­len says Ru­bio, Cruz, and Paul are show­ing a lack of season­ing by in­vit­ing such a con­front­a­tion. “The rami­fic­a­tions of something like that are far broad­er than what it sounds like,” Ga­len says. He should know. He ex­per­i­enced the 1995-96 shut­down, and the polit­ic­al dam­age it did to his party, as a top aide to then-House Speak­er Newt Gin­grich.

What We're Following See More »
TRUMP CANCELS FLORIDA TRIP
Congress Heads Back to Work to End Shutdown
23 hours ago
THE LATEST

"The Senate was expected to be back in session at noon, while House lawmakers were told to return to work for a 9 a.m. session. Mr. Trump on Friday had canceled plans to travel to his private resort on Palm Beach, Fla., where a celebration had been planned for Saturday to celebrate the anniversary of his first year in office."

Source:
CLOTURE FAILS
Government Shutdown Begins, as Senate Balks at Stopgap
1 days ago
THE LATEST

"A stopgap spending bill stalled in the Senate Friday night, leading to a government shutdown for the first time since 2013. The continuing resolution funding agencies expired at midnight, and lawmakers were unable to spell out any path forward to keep government open. The Senate on Friday night failed to reach cloture on a four-week spending bill the House had already approved."

Source:
HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS IN SUSPICIOUS CHECKS FLAGGED
Mueller’s Team Scrutinizing Russian Embassy Transactions
2 days ago
THE LATEST
PRO-TRUMP SPENDING COULD VIOLATE FECA
FBI Investigating Potential Russian Donations to NRA
2 days ago
THE DETAILS

"The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency." Investigators have focused on Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank "who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA." The solicitation or use of foreign funds is illegal in U.S. elections under the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) by either lobbying groups or political campaigns. The NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections.

Source:
DISCLOSURES MORE THAN DOUBLED
Mueller Investigation Leads to Hundreds of New FARA Filings
2 days ago
THE LATEST

"Hundreds of new and supplemental FARA filings by U.S. lobbyists and public relations firms" have been submitted "since Special Counsel Mueller charged two Trump aides with failing to disclose their lobbying work on behalf of foreign countries. The number of first-time filings ... rose 50 percent to 102 between 2016 and 2017, an NBC News analysis found. The number of supplemental filings, which include details about campaign donations, meetings and phone calls more than doubled from 618 to 1,244 last year as lobbyists scrambled to avoid the same fate as some of Trump's associates and their business partners."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login