Val Demings’ ad criticizes Rubio’s attendance record

PolitiFact | Rubio has missed 9.2% of roll call votes since 2011, well above average for members of the Senate.
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, left, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings, right.
Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, left, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Val Demings, right. [ AP and Tribune News Service photos ]
Published Jul. 28, 2022

U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., said her opponent in Florida’s U.S. Senate race, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, has a shoddy attendance record.

“For 27 years, I showed up every day to put dangerous criminals away, never knowing I’d come home to my family, and when I was chief, we reduced violent crime by 40%,” Demings said in a July 13 ad. “But Marco, you’ve got one of the worst attendance records in the Senate. When Florida needs you, you just don’t show up.”

Attacks for missed votes are common. But Rubio’s attendance record has come under repeated scrutiny from his political opponents.

In 2016, former President Donald Trump said Rubio had the “No. 1 absentee record” in the Senate, and we rated the claim Mostly True.

But does that criticism still hold up? We decided to find out.

Rubio missed more than 9% of roll call votes throughout his career

Since taking office in 2011, Rubio has missed 346, or 9.2%, of 3,744 roll call votes, according to GovTrack, a nonpartisan website that collects congressional data.

On average, members of the Senate miss around 2.3% of votes during their tenure.

Most of Rubio’s career absences occurred during his bid for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016. From April 2015 through March 2016, Rubio missed 129 votes.

Related: His eye on the White House, Marco Rubio racks up the worst missed-vote record in the U.S. Senate

That’s not unusual for a presidential candidate. For example, former President Barack Obama missed 314, or about 24%, of 1,300 roll call votes in his three-year Senate career.

Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who both vied for the White House, have worse attendance than Rubio.

Sanders has missed more than 14% of votes since 2007; Cruz missed 9.4% since he joined the Senate in 2013.

Still, Rubio’s attendance record did not immediately improve after his presidential campaign. According to ProPublica, in the 115th Congress, which ran from January 2017 to 2018, Rubio was the eighth most absent member in the Senate, out of 99 senators. (There was one vacancy.)

In 2020, Rubio ranked 12th most absent among senators who have served more than 10 years.

When looking at the current 117th Congress, however, Rubio’s attendance has improved. The 117th Congress began in 2021 and goes through January 2023.

So far, he’s missed 41 votes, making him the 27th most absent member of the Senate. He cited “travel difficulties” for three absences, per ProPublica.

It’s also worth noting that none of the votes Rubio missed in the 117th Congress had a specific impact on Florida.

The most absent member of the Senate recently is Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota. So far, Rounds missed more than 25% of votes.

Rubio’s campaign did not answer specific questions about his record. Instead, a spokesperson pointed to a list of his achievements in the Senate, including co-authoring the Paycheck Protection Program, or PPP.

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Our ruling

Demings said Rubio has “one of the worst attendance records in the Senate. "

Looking at the percentage of roll call votes Rubio missed throughout his decade as a senator, the statement is accurate. Overall, Rubio missed more than 9% of votes since 2011 — well above the average of 2.3% among members of the Senate. One of the reasons for this is his unsuccessful run for the presidency in 2016.

Rubio’s attendance record in the 117th Congress is a bit better. So far, he has missed 41 votes, making him the 27th most absent member of the Senate.

We rate Demings’ claim Mostly True.