Rubio scrambles day to return to Washington, showing sensitivity to criticism
Marco Rubio’s absence from Washington has caught up with him.
Monday afternoon, he made a remarkable last-minute decision to leave Florida in order to make a Foreign Relations Committee hearing on North Korea. He missed most of the meeting and left without talking to reporters, who hovered in the Capitol in hopes of talking with the presidential candidate.
Rubio’s staff did not explain the decision but it was clearly improvised, and likely out of concern about adding to growing criticism from rivals – and some voters – about his disregard for his day job. “I feel like you've given up doing it as a senator, so how can you do it as a president?" a woman asked him at an event in Sarasota.
Rubio planned on attending a 6 p.m. fundraiser in Key Largo, but about 3:20 p.m. was on his rented Cessna Citation Excel plane back to Washington. He was seen in the Capitol about 6:20 p.m., roughly 20 minutes before the 5 p.m. briefing concluded.
The Florida Republican has come under increasingly scrutiny from rivals about shirking his duties. A new ad from the Jeb Bush super PAC spotlights how Rubio was missing votes and hearings before he announced for president.
Today, when the Tampa Bay Times, CNN and other news outlets reported Rubio would be missing the hearing, Chris Christie’s campaign sent out an email with the subject, “Marco plays hooky … again.” (Christie, of course, is campaigning while still holding office.) The Democratic research group American Bridge worked to raise the issue with reporters and on social media.
Rubio has shown willingness to miss routine votes (he's skipped more than half since July) but since foreign policy experience is a centerpiece of his campaign, he reasoned he could not sustain more criticism. Last week when North Korea said it had tested a hydrogen bomb, Rubio was among the first to react, saying if the test was confirmed “it will be just the latest example of the failed Obama-Clinton foreign policy.”
He is scheduled to be in Washington on Tuesday and his office said he would “receive a classified intelligence briefing from intelligence staff on North Korea and other issues, and to participate in a classified Intelligence Committee meeting on terrorism. He will also meet with the King of Jordan about the refugee crisis and other issues affecting our alliance, vote in favor of auditing the Federal Reserve, and attend the State of the Union.”
Rubio also has a fundraiser in Washington.