Recovering from a failed immigration reform effort in 2013, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is working to gain momentum as a “one man policy shop,” on issues such as Venezuela and rising tuition costs.
In a speech Monday, the Florida Republican and possible 2016 presidential candidate will call for a series of changes to U.S. economic policy, according to Damian Paletta and Beth Reinhard of the Wall Street Journal.
The move is part of a GOP effort to strengthen the party’s agenda as it faces the November midterms.
Rubio’s Washington speech, jointly hosted by Google and the Jack Kemp Foundation, proposes streamlining the process of federal natural-gas pipeline regulatory review, as well as stricter monitoring of the impact of regulations.
The Florida senator also will call for expanding wireless access and improving research through closer coordination between the government and the private sector.
The speech will promote discussions on the best way to encourage economic growth, Rubio said in a recent interview, adding that the U.S. has lost its competitive edge. He blames that on “our tax laws, our regulatory structure and our national debt.”
Even as polls show the GOP as more obstructionist and out of touch with voters, Rubio — as do other potential 2016 White House hopefuls Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky — promotes a plan that is a safe distance from the ideology that led to the federal government shutdown in October.
“The disconnect in our messaging recently has been the failure to clearly articulate how conservative pro-growth policy ideas can work to lift the fortunes for the working class,” GOP consultant Phil Musser told the Journal.
But as Rubio stands firm on policy, his influence is still suffering.
In a Conservative Political Action Conference straw poll last week, Rubio came in a distant seventh among GOP contenders for 2016. Last year, he finished second to Paul with nearly a quarter of the tally.
Paul came in first this year.
Rubio, 42, will lay out a minimum of 10 policy changes, which he believes will help improve the economy.
Included will be a crude-oil export ban, provisions to allow businesses to deduct investments from taxable income directly, and a larger effort to broker international trade agreements to open markets to the “tens of thousands” of U.S. businesses. Most of his proposals will appeal to his conservative base.
Rubio also seeks tough economic sanctions on Venezuela, in the wake of escalating unrest there.
Immigration issues will be noticeably absent. Rubio says it is because everyone already knows his views on the matter. Critics claim it’s a move to appease the conservative base.
“No one looks less presidential than the guy trying to look presidential,” Florida Democratic Party spokesman Joshua Karp told the Journal. “His standing had fallen so fast, so far, after he pushed for some kind of immigration reform.”
“It’s not been his performance that we’ve been judging; it’s the impossible set of expectations that were thrust upon him,” said Al Cardenas, chair of the American Conservative Union and a former chair of the Florida Republican Party.
Cardenas added that it is unfair to judge Rubio’s every move in the context of presidential politics. Instead of viewing Rubio as an effective senator, he said, many look at him as “savior of the Republican Party,” as Time magazine labeled him last year.