In recent weeks, Democrats (and even some opposing Republican presidential candidates) have relished attacking Marco Rubio for missing votes in the Senate as he campaigns for president.
But on Tuesday, three members of the Democratic Progressive Caucus were attacking the Florida senator for a bill that he actually voted on (his first since September 24) — a bill that would force sanctuary cities to cooperate with federal immigration officials. The measure lost on Tuesday when it failed to get the 60 votes needed. (It received 55 votes, vs. 45 who opposed the measure.)
“Here you go again, Marco Rubio,” said Los Angeles-based U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra on a conference call. “You miss a third of all votes that you’re supposed to cast in the Senate, but you show up for this political one, and people have to question what drives you, and why are you doing this?”
Sanctuary cities have existed in the United States for decades, but Republicans have vowed to penalize such cities after a tragedy occurred in San Francisco last July that made national headlines. That’s when local resident Kate Steinle was fatally shot at a tourist location by an undocumented immigrant who had been previously deported five times.
Conservatives argue that San Francisco is one of hundreds of sanctuary jurisdictions that don’t follow federal immigration law, including not complying with requests for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to hold undocumented immigrants until federal officials can take them into custody.
Under the legislation sponsored by Louisiana Republican David Vitter and co-sponsored by Rubio, undocumented immigrants would face a minimum of five years in prison if they re-enter the United States after previously being convicted of an aggravated felony or twice re-entered the country illegally.
Arizona U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva took Rubio to task for abandoning comprehensive immigration reform, saying he and all of the other GOP presidential candidates have been intimidated by Donald Trump’s success at the polls. Trump’s rise is said to have begun after his controversial comments regarding undocumented immigrants being “rapists.”
“Here we see Marco Rubio in the Senate floor, talking about work ethic, obviously it’s not present in his record, and chiming in and (using) the rhetoric of Donald Trump,” said Grijalva.
That was a reference to Rubio’s comments on the Senate floor earlier on Tuesday, where he attacked employees at the Veterans Administration who didn’t do their jobs.
“All we’re saying in this bill is,” The Washington Post quotes Rubio, “if you work at the VA, and you aren’t doing your job, they get to fire you. I think people are shocked that that [doesn’t] actually exist in the entire government, since there is really no other job in the country where if you don’t do your job, you don’t get fired.”
He continued: “In this instance, we’re just limiting it to one agency. This should actually be the rule in the entire government. If you’re not doing your job, you should be fired.”
“One of the reasons Marco is campaigning hard to be the next president is so he can finally bring accountability to the VA,” Rubio spokesperson Brooke Sammon said.
San Jose area U.S. Rep. Mike Honda alluded to how Rubio had missed 60 percent of his votes since June, including measures like the Keystone XL pipeline, keeping the government open and funding U.S. troops. “Voters should make a mental note that Rubio will ignore those critical issues, but he will rush back to D.C. if there is an opportunity to stick it to the immigrants.”
Regarding today’s vote, the Obama administration has threatened previous efforts to block funding to sanctuary cities, citing a 2014 executive order from Obama that directs federal officials to focus deportations on convicted criminals.