Editorial: Rubio back to being part of the problem in Senate

Sen. Marco Rubio’s wheeling and dealing over a nominee shows what’s wrong with Washington.
Sen. Marco Rubio’s wheeling and dealing over a nominee shows what’s wrong with Washington.
Published May 6, 2016

Sen. Marco Rubio spent his presidential campaign railing against the dysfunction in Washington. When that bid failed, he moved seamlessly back to his old job: Being part of the problem.

The Miami Republican signed off on a deal this month that led the Senate to confirm the new U.S. ambassador to Mexico, 11 months after Roberta Jacobson, a career Foreign Service officer, was nominated to the post by President Barack Obama. The delay was a classic example of the abuse of senatorial privilege, and the deal ending this political game sums up why Americans are so fed up with their elected representatives.

Rubio placed a hold on the nomination in November. It's not that Jacobson, then an assistant secretary of state for the Western Hemisphere, was unprepared for the job. It wasn't that corruption, illegal immigration and the drug wars in Mexico were not serious enough to warrant a permanent ambassador south of the border. The Cuban-American senator simply objected to Obama's new opening to Cuba. Jacobson, having overseen U.S. affairs in Latin America, including the thaw with the communist Castro government, was caught in the cross hairs. It was a self-serving and losing battle for Rubio, who minimized America's influence on a critical international stage merely to prolong a Cold War with Havana.

But after his Florida primary defeat to Donald Trump, Rubio came to the bargaining table, indulging in a round of horse-trading that would make any beltway insider blush. As part of the deal that cleared the way for Jacobson's confirmation, the State Department will have to produce dozens of new reports a year on everything from anti-Semitism to religious freedom. Sanctions against Venezuela for human rights abuses will be extended for three more years. U.S. diplomats will push the United Nations to crack down on the sex abuse committed by its peacekeepers. And in a side deal with Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who left the GOP presidential race Tuesday and bogged down the Senate with a procedural hold of his own, Rubio agreed to push the House to rename the street in front of the Chinese Embassy after a Chinese political prisoner.

This wheeling and dealing was a colossal waste of time and resources and a naked display of hypocrisy. Could these issues not stand or fail on their own merit? Was it necessary to hold hostage the diplomatic corps for a White House's change in policy? No wonder Americans, and foreign leaders, shake their heads about the process in Washington. Good public policy has become second to political gamesmanship, and those involved seemingly cannot fathom any other way.