1. Archive


Federal workers returned to their jobs, national parks reopened and the nation avoided economic disaster Thursday. The short-term agreement approved by Congress to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling was the only responsible answer and creates a small window for broader budget negotiations. Yet Sen. Marco Rubio and most of his fellow Florida Republicans in the House continue to act irresponsibly and align themselves with extremists. That's bad for Florida and for the nation.

Rubio had one shining moment when he worked with a bipartisan group to pass a Senate immigration bill that is languishing in the House. Then he could not stand the heat from the tea party supporters who helped elect him and resumed being an obstructionist. Rubio was one of just 18 Republican senators Wednesday night to vote against a temporary spending plan and raising the debt ceiling, aligning himself with such rigid ideologues as Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky. He is part of the problem instead of the solution in Washington, and it is no surprise he is not on the Senate's budget negotiating team.

Republicans such as Rubio created this manufactured crisis, which took billions of dollars out of the economy and damaged the nation's international standing. It was a complete defeat for the Republicans who shut down the government and threatened to put the federal government into default in a foolish attempt to force President Barack Obama to gut his signature health care reform law. It is no surprise that the president and Senate Democrats held firm, or that voters primarily blame Republicans for this debacle.

Yet Rubio continues to defend his untenable position. He rails against the Affordable Care Act that will help millions of uninsured Floridians get health coverage. He argues it was responsible to vote against allowing the government to borrow money to pay bills it already has incurred. Risking a historic default is not the way to trigger bipartisan discussions about reducing the nation's deficit and investing in its future.

All Florida Democrats voted to fund the government through Jan. 15 and suspend the debt limit until Feb. 7. Six pragmatic Florida Republican House members also voted for the legislation, including Reps. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, and Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota. They still oppose the Affordable Care Act and want to reduce federal spending, but they recognized shutting down the government and risking default was reckless and a losing political strategy. It's harder to follow the reasoning of Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Lakeland, who voted against the legislation even though he supported a clean spending bill. He opposed raising the debt ceiling, which was the only rational approach. Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Spring Hill, also voted against the legislation and should be held accountable by voters next year.

There is no reason to cheer avoiding calamity now only to set up new artificial deadlines for early next year that would force another avoidable crisis. But there are a few weeks for a bipartisan negotiating team to work on a budget deal that could reduce the deficit and set meaningful spending priorities. It is encouraging that Democratic Florida Sen. Bill Nelson has been named to that group. Now Obama should be just as firm in negotiating with Congress to reach a long-term compromise as he was in refusing to bend on health care reform and insisting that the nation's bills be paid.