- - Friday, July 8, 2016

In a move that some found surprising, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund announced this week our endorsement of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for reelection to the U.S. Senate. Our endorsement was noteworthy because over the years, we have had serious and significant disagreements with Sen. Rubio — especially on the issue of immigration.

When making endorsement decisions, Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund evaluates three categories of information: the candidate’s current stance on issues, the candidate’s record and, importantly, whether or not the candidate has acknowledged what we believe to be past errors and attempted to make amends. On each of these metrics, Sen. Rubio has earned our endorsement.

First, let’s look at where Sen. Rubio stands on the issues. Sen. Rubio is an undisputed tea party candidate. He opposes Obamacare, opposes executive overreach, opposes Washington, D.C.’s culture of cronyism and kickbacks to the well-connected elites, and is an unabashed fiscal conservative. On each of our core principles, including limiting the size and scope of the federal government and protecting individual liberty, Sen. Rubio is a strong ally.

But, so what? Many would argue that talk is cheap and it is easy for candidates to say anything on the campaign trail. That’s true, of course - and that is why the second part of our endorsement process involves evaluating the candidate’s record.

It is easy for politicians to voice opposition to Obamacare. After all, nearly every Republican in Congress campaigned in past elections, in one form or another, against Obamacare. It is far more difficult, however, to co-sponsor legislation to strip Congress of its Obamacare exemption… but Sen. Rubio did just that.

In order to circumvent the clear language of Obamacare, Congress — with more than 12,000 employees — enrolled itself in the “small business” Obamacare exchange to keep the staffers’ and Members’ taxpayer subsidies. (Leave it to the elitists on Capitol Hill to find a way to provide relief to themselves from the unpopular and unworkable healthcare law while Americans struggle with it!) Sen. Rubio shares our objection to the blatant unfairness of this system and is a key cosponsor of S. 1810, the No Exemption for Washington from Obamacare Act.

But that’s not all — at one point last year, Sen. David Vitter, Chairman of the Small Business Committee, needed majority support on his committee to subpoena key congressional officials to find out exactly who had authorized the submission of false documents that wrongly claimed Congress was a “small business.” Under pressure from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Sen. Rand Paul led four other Republicans on the committee to vote with committee Democrats to block the subpoena. Sen. Rubio bravely stood up to the Majority Leader, and sided with Sen. Vitter. That took courage on his part, and we applaud him for standing up to “business as usual” in Washington, D.C.

On other issues, Sen. Rubio’s record is equally impressive. He stood against corporate cronyism when he voted to kill the Export-Import Bank. And he proved his commitment to our limited-government principles when he voted against federal control of education with his vote against reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act.

There is, however, one example where Sen. Rubio was highly visible in a position contrary to tea party principles. In 2013, the Senate took up the Gang of Eight amnesty bill that would have granted amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants residing in the United States. As a member of the “Gang of Eight” (one of the original eight Senators co-sponsoring the amnesty bill), Sen. Rubio was one of the most vocal and visible champions of President Obama’s amnesty agenda.

For many, Sen. Rubio’s decision in 2013 to push forward on a massive amnesty bill is sufficient reason to write him off as a candidate. We, on the other hand, prefer to take a more holistic approach to candidates’ past mistakes and policy errors, taking into account how the candidate may have made amends. Here, again, Sen. Rubio earns our trust and demonstrates that he has learned an important lesson from his involvement with the 2013 amnesty bill.

Sen. Rubio had an opportunity to show he had learned his lesson when he voted on H.R. 240, the DHS funding bill, in February of 2015. Senate Majority Leader McConnell had offered a substitute that removed the House-passed prohibition on using appropriated funds to implement President Obama’s illegal and unconstitutional executive amnesty proposal, announced in November 2014. Sen. Rubio voted properly against the McConnell-amended, weakened measure. He also voted properly when he later voted in support of S. 2146, the Stop Sanctuary Policies and Protect Americans Act.

As the nation’s largest grassroots tea party organization, our Super PAC’s endorsement process has a much more “grassroots feel” than most other organizations’ processes. Our endorsement process doesn’t even get off the ground in any race without the input of our local supporters, whether in the district for House races, or in the state for Senate races. We have taken surveys of our supporters in Florida and the overall sense is that Sen. Rubio is not only the best candidate to win in November, but he is also the best person to represent our core tea party principles.

The stakes are high in this election and the balance of the Supreme Court will be decided in 2017. Sen. Rubio’s reelection will help ensure that Republicans maintain the majority, and can use that majority to prevent the nomination and confirmation of a liberal to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Sen. Rubio is absolutely our best chance of keeping the Senate, protecting the Supreme Court, and advancing our tea party agenda.

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Jenny Beth Martin is the Chairman of Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund.

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