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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio, Bill Nelson disagree on earmarks



Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson met this morning for a half hour and emerged with kind words for each other and a pledge to work together for Florida. But there's already one area where they disagree: earmarks.

Rubio reaffirmed his support for a GOP measure to ban them, calling them wasteful. Nelson, on the other hand, said earmarks have been a big help for Florida, and cited a nuclear aircraft carrier for Mayport. He and Rubio discussed the issue and will continue to, Nelson said.

"We discussed Florida's long tradition of senators working together," Rubio said. As for earmarks he said, "Obviously, I want Florida to be fairly represented in this process. On the other hand, I think this country owes $13.5 trillion and growing, and we have to deal with that very seriously ... It's not an easy issue but we'll confront it." (A recent SPT story on Rubio's position here.)

Nelson said the question over earmarks is not whether to ban them all but how to stop the "flim-flam" and "nonsense" ones. He noted that Rep. Ander Crenshaw, R-Jacksonville, faced an earmark ban as part of the House GOP but was still able to work on Mayport.

Rubio's arrival on Capitol Hill is getting a lot of notice. Asked about the fanfare, Rubio laughed and said he's not paying attention. Yesterday, he said, he was watching football. On the way into the meeting, Nelson and Rubio paused at a collage of Florida's senators and spoke a little history.

Rubio pointed to a picture of a senator from long ago who wore a ZZ Top-style beard. "I was thinking about letting something like that grow," he said of Sen. Samuel Pasco, who served from 1887-1899. Rubio hopes he's around a lot longer than that.

After meeting with Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, Rubio entered a hallway where a crush of reporters pounced on him. He looked startled and amused, smiling. "All of us got elected to be responsible to the ideas that we ran on," he told a reporter. "We all have obligations to come up here and be held accountable. I think everybody understands that."

He looked around for a way out. "I lost my guide," he said.

Rubio is avoiding the spotlight as much as he can, clearly aware of how a fresh-faced lawmaker -- star or not -- could offend some of his colleagues with a splashy landing.

[Last modified: Monday, November 15, 2010 12:42pm]


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