Thursday, October 29, 2015

Absenteeism, Marco "No-Show" Rubio and a Question of Accountability

by Nomad

Some think it's hypocritical for Marco Rubio to ask for greater responsibility as president when he can't seem to handle being a Senator.

The question about his absences from Senate votes has been a headache for candidate Senator Marco Rubio since Donald Trump brought it up at the first debate
On average, senators miss about 3 percent of their votes or have an attendance rate of 97 percent. Rubio was a no-show for a full 30 percent of the time, missing 69 votes. 
I don't know about you, but I have never worked at a job where I could show for a third of my schedule.

Rubio searched in vain for an excuse to explain his poor record with the kind of excuse no employer would accept. In an interview, one reason was that he was "frustrated" with how things were done in the Senate. 
He came into Congress "young, ambitious, charismatic, fluent in English and Spanish, and beloved by the establishment and the tea party" only to see many of his ideas go ptfff.

The Washington Post explained
Democrats killed his debt-cutting plans. Republicans killed his immigration reform. The two parties actually came together to kill his AGREE Act, a small-bore, hands-across-the-aisle bill that Rubio had designed just to get a win on something.
This disappointment left Rubio so sour (the word "hate" was used to describe how he felt about the Senate) that he has said he will not run for re-election after his Senate term finishes.
This year, as Rubio runs for president, he has cast the Senate — the very place that cemented him as a national politician — as a place he’s given up on, after less than one term. It’s too slow. Too rule-bound. So Rubio, 44, has decided not to run for his seat again. It’s the White House or bust.
Given his poor showing against people like Trump and Carson, a bust is a much more likely.
Hoisted by his own Petard
It took Rubio a while to come up for what he thought was a suitable excuse. He defended his frequent absenteeism by.. wait for it... blaming Obama, He told CNN’s “State of the Union"  that many of the votes he had missed would on legislation that the president would have vetoed in any case.

Then to make matters just a little more humiliating, Mr. Rubio used a recent floor speech to say under-performing government employees should be fired. In that speech- his first in 41 days- he referred to the Veteran's Administration and accused them of a lack of accountability. He complained that government workers should not be treated differently than other employees.
"There really isn’t another job in the country where if you don’t do your job, you don’t get fired.
But not just in the VA.
This should really be the rule in the entire government, if you’re not doing your job you should be fired.
That apparently did not include the US Senate and especially not Rubio himself.  His spokesman Brooke Sammon did his best to spin the unspinnable by telling reporters:
“One of the reasons Marco is campaigning to be the next President is so he can finally bring accountability to the V.A.”
That's not, however, what Rubio actually said. The entire government. Sammon was flailing, but then it wasn't his fault. That's the excuse that Rubio used too. He recently said:
“That’s why I’m missing votes. Because I am leaving the Senate. I am not running for reelection.”
Fund-raising binges and traveling to key primary states doesn't leave a lot of time for the mundane and "frustrating" routine of being a Senator. One can see by this graph that Rubio record of absenteeism sharply increased as the election cycle approached.

Other Duties
If that's a lousy excuse for not doing your job then it also becomes the source of still more in important questions.

In his defense, Rubio reminded his critics that there was more to being a Senator than simply voting. 
That's true.

Rubio is a member of various Senate committees and sub-committees. Here's a list:
How much time Rubio has devoted to these duties while he is campaigning is also something that voters need to ask. It is unclear how much time Rubio could reasonably spend with these duties with so much time campaigning. 
The bottom line is, no matter how "frustrated" Senator Rubio is with his job, campaigning for president is simply not the job that voters hired him to do.
And that includes more than just voting.

Smart Cookie
Of course, it could be said that Rubio is one smart cookie- after all, he did pretty well for not actually doing much work.

A first-term senator like Rubio can expect to earn $174,000 a year. This salary also includes a lot of perks, like health and life Insurance and Retirement benefits. Marco Rubio, despite serving only one six-year term in the Senate, will qualify for retirement benefits.  A full pension can normally be taken at the age of 62 if the congressperson has had at least five years of federal service. 

That's a fairly early start for a person who supported raising the retirement age  for Social Security and reducing benefits for some seniors.  In what other job can you work for just six years and get a comfortable retirement package?

If Rubio fails to win the White House, his plans for the post-Senate future remain unspecified but they are likely to include a speaking or book tour or a lobbying gig. Rubio, like JEB!, was a registered lobbyist in Miami-Dade, from 1997 to 2005 while he worked for various law firms, mostly on land use.

He might go back into teaching. In fact, while Senator, Rubio earned income as a teacher. That's something he did before and, in fact, while he was a senator. And that became another bit of controversy too. 
Politico reminds us:
Rubio began lecturing at FIU after term limits forced him in 2009 from the Florida House, where he served as speaker for two years. Because Rubio had helped steer money to the school, his teaching gig was controversial at first.  
It was a a $69,000-a-year teaching job which rubbed a lot of people the wrong way when Republicans were all talking about cutting budgets. The general accusation was that it was a "sweet heart" deal. 
Nevertheless, after the controversy died down and Rubio became Senator Rubio, he was welcomed back in 2011 with a $24,000-a-year teaching fellowship at the Miami school.

For voters already fed up with Congress, that kind of self-interest, this kind of hypocritical carping about accountability while pretending to be exempt is about as appetizing as jellied eels. 

Mad-as-hell conservative voters want to drive that kind of Congressmen out of office, not elect them to offices of higher responsibility. What happens if he gets as bored with the executive branch as he has of the legistlative? 

No Better, No Worse
However, one interesting aspect was brought up by the UK Daily Mail. According to that analysis, Senator Rubio is no better or no worse than other politicians when it comes to taking their Senate jobs seriously. Senator Cruz's record is hardly any better with 55 missed votes or 77 percent attendance. Taking career truancy, Cruz has a worse attendance record than Rubio, missing 104 out of 922 votes
On the Democratic side, Obama and Clinton both have had appalling voting attendance records while running for office.

As one conservative blogger pointed out:
It isn’t difficult to explain that most Senate votes are neither close nor particularly controversial. There is little reason for any senator to vote on everything. On the other hand, when a vote is important, Rubio has canceled campaign stops to be on the Senate floor. I know this from experience, as Marco canceled a fundraiser in Minneapolis in which I was participating to cast an important vote on Iran.

So this issue shouldn’t hurt Rubio, but he needs to handle it more adroitly.
And that's important.
The fact that Rubio has been so clumsy in handling a fair criticism perhaps demonstrates better than anything why Rubio probably would make a fairly lousy nominee for the Republican party.  

First Senator Rubio was unable to mount a suitable defense from an attack by Trump - who hasn't ever even served in an elected office. Then he somehow blunders and gives the most conclusive condemnation for his absenteeism on the floor of the Senate. Then he blames the president and finally he complains that the job wasn't as satisfying as he expected.

That's not really presidential star quality, even given this dread-inspiring GOP roster.  No wonder Trump calls him a "light-weight."