POLITICS

Marco Rubio Explains His Absenteeism In The Senate

The presidential candidate says his legislative job is about more than just voting.

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) defended his poor attendance record in the Senate -- where he maintains the highest absentee rate of any senator running for president -- by suggesting that voting isn't the most important aspect of the job.

In a Tuesday appearance on NBC's "Today Show," Rubio rejected the notion that he has been selling his Florida constituents short by attending campaign events and fundraisers instead. 

"No, in fact the majority of the job of being a senator is not walking on to the Senate floor and lifting your finger on a noncontroversial issue and seeing which way you're going to vote," he said. "The majority of the work of a senator is the constituent service to committee work, that continues forward unabated."

He added: "My ambitions aren't for me; my ambitions are for the country and Florida. And that's why I'm running for president."

Rubio is correct in noting that senators spend their time on dozens of other duties, but that doesn't mean those should take precedence over the job of representing their constituents.

Furthermore, Rubio's point about committee work is a bit odd given his absence from the Senate Foreign Relations full committee and subcommittee on which he serves. According to a Politico review of his record from 2011 to 2014, Rubio missed 52 of 106 hearings on both panels.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who are also running for president, have had a similar problem this year. Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), on the other hand, have had substantially less trouble showing up for votes.

Another former senator who had truancy issues? President Barack Obama.

UPDATE: 9:32 p.m. -- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), another candidate for the GOP presidential nomination, brought up the matter while delivering the keynote address at the Scott County Republican Reagan Dinner in Bettendorf, Iowa, on Tuesday evening. He did not, however, explicitly mention the name of his protégé.

"We should cut the pay of elected officials who don't show up to work," Bush said. "I don't know about you, but this idea that somehow voting isn’t important? What are they supposed to do? They should go to the committee hearings, they should vote."
 
CORRECTION: Rubio appeared on NBC's "Today Show," not ABC's "Good Morning America."
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