- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sen. Marco Rubio has missed nearly a third of the Senate votes this year, skipping out on battles over the Keystone XL pipeline, Iran sanctions and Planned Parenthood as he’s campaigning for president — and he’s beginning to face criticism for his conflicting priorities.

The Florida Republican has missed 87 of the 278 votes cast as of Thursday.

That’s more than any of the other four senators also running for president, but less than the nearly 50 percent of votes Sen. John McCain had missed at this point in the 2008 campaign.

Mr. Rubio says his time is better spent on the campaign trail because Congress is broken and his votes there are wasted until a conservative Republican wins the White House. But some of his opponents are beginning to carp about his voting record, saying he doesn’t appear to take his current job seriously, and questioning why voters should elevate him.

“I think if congressmen and -women are elected to serve, they actually ought to show up and vote,” former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, an erstwhile friend of MR. Rubio’s, said during a stop in Iowa this week.

There’s always been tension between current lawmakers’ day jobs and their national campaign aspirations, and some have handled it in different ways. Sen. Robert W. Dole resigned his post as Senate majority leader in order to devote himself to the campaign in 1996, while Sen. Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican seeking the GOP’s nomination this cycle, has kept up a formidable voting schedule in Washington, missing just six votes so far.

Among the others running this year are Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, who’s missed 69 votes; Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, who’s missed 62 votes; and Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent seeking Democrats’ nomination, who’s missed nine votes.

The Rubio campaign says the absences have not torpedoed any legislative efforts, and says it has become commonplace for Senators to ditch votes in Congress in order to woo votes in Iowa, New Hampshire and other key primary states during a presidential bid.

Mr. Rubio himself pushed back against the criticism this week, saying he feels he can do more good in the campaign than he can on Capitol Hill.

“These votes that are happening in the Senate, we are not going to be able to make a difference unless we have a new president, and a better president,” he said as he campaigned in New Hampshire. “That is why I am running for president and that’s why am out there everyday campaigning.”

Mr. Rubio continued, “When I miss votes in Washington it is because I am running for president because I believe we can’t get this country moving in the right direction unless we have the right person in the White House.”

Critics, though, said that sounded like a self-serving answer.

“Leadership is about taking a stand and following through. But your record proves you do neither,” New Hampshire Democrats said in a statement.

Mr. Paul, the champion voter among the candidates this year, said it’s as simple as living up to the commitment he made to the Constitution when he was sworn in.

“He’s fulfilling his obligation to the people that elected him, and believes those who take voting for granted fail to represent their constituents who put them in office,” said Sergio Gor, a Paul spokesman.

Mr. Rubio was elected in 2010 along with Mr. Paul, but Mr. Rubio has not chosen to seek re-election, while Mr. Paul is running simultaneously for the presidency and to retain his Senate seat for another six-year term.

Asked why Mr. Cruz has missed more than a fifth of the votes this year and whether the trend would continue over the coming months, Catherine Frazier, a Cruz campaign spokeswoman, said the Texas Republican is “is advocating for the values, policies, and principles that Texans care about, and he makes every effort to be present to vote.”

At this point eight years ago then-Sen. Barack Obama had played hooky on 96 out of 363 votes that had been cast, for a 26 percent truancy rate.

Then-Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, his chief primary opponent, had missed 36 votes, or 10 percent, according to GovTrack, which keeps an eye on federal legislation.

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