The Washington Times - January 1, 2013, 02:16AM

It could be considered the first vote of the 2016 presidential primary, and Sen. Marco Rubio defied most of his party by voting against the “fiscal cliff” deal GOP leader Sen. Mitch McConnell and Vice President Joseph R. Biden struck.

Mr. Rubio was one of just eight senators to vote against the legislation, which cleared in an easy 89-8 vote just after 2 a.m. on New Year’s Day.


The Florida Republican is seen as a leading contender for his party’s presidential nomination in four years.

In a statement Tuesday morning, he praised Mr. McConnell for striking the deal, but said the agreement failed to get the job done.

“Thousands of small businesses, not just the wealthy, will now be forced to decide how they’ll pay this new tax and, chances are, they’ll do it by firing employees, cutting back their hours and benefits, or postponing the new hire they were looking to make,” he said. “And to make matters worse, it does nothing to bring our dangerous debt under control.”

Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican whose father, Rep. Ron Paul, shook up the GOP’s nomination race in 2012, also voted against the deal.

Many of the GOP’s staunchest fiscal conservatives voted for the agreement, including Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.

Speaking on the chamber floor Monday, hours before the vote, Mr. Paul said Americans should be disappointed in the agreement.

“This isn’t about getting rich people; this is about what it will do to the economy, what it is going to do to the average middle-class person who works for a rich person,” he said.

He said that if tax increases are bad for some, they are bad for everyone — including the wealthy.

Another potential 2016 GOP candidate, South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint, missed the vote. He has been absent from the Senate in recent weeks as he prepares to take over the helm at the Heritage Foundation.

On the Democratic side, Mr. Biden, whose name has been floated as a potential successor to Mr. Obama in 2016, emerged as a key author of the deal, along with Mr. McConnell.