By Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board
Floridians deserve a U.S. senator who genuinely wants to do the job and who views his office as something more than a place to cool his heels until it’s time to run for president again. That means voters should give the job to Patrick Murphy.
The Sun Sentinel Editorial Board endorses Murphy because we mostly approve of the policy positions espoused by him and other moderate Democrats. Those include a commitment to repair, rather than kill, Obamacare; respect for the hard-won rights of women, the LGBT community and minorities; a higher minimum wage; tax policies that benefit the middle class, rather than the rich; a pragmatic approach to relations with Cuba; deep concern about climate change; protecting Medicare and Social Security from privatization; and ensuring that the Second Amendment is not corrupted into a right for terrorists to buy assault weapons.
On all of those issues, Murphy is strong and Rubio is weak.
Further, we like Murphy because we think the country will be better off if Democrats control the Senate — something that will be important if Hillary Clinton becomes president, as we hope, and perhaps even more crucial if Donald Trump is elected.
During his two terms in the House, Murphy has shown a willingness to work across the aisle — though, granted, it is not that easy to find Republicans in the House even the slightest bit interested in compromise. For goodness’ sake, even Speaker Paul Ryan has trouble keeping the ultra-conservative Freedom Caucus in the fold.
If Clinton is elected and the GOP still runs the Senate, the country will have to endure a repeat of the obstructionism typified by the Senate’s refusal to let President Barack Obama replace the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. If Trump is elected and the GOP still runs the Senate, things could be even worse if Trump is allowed to pick justices who either are unqualified or intent on curtailing women’s rights, minority voting rights and discrimination against LGBT people.
As a Republican, Rubio is a member of the party that controls both houses of Congress. Presumably, Rubio thinks he’s an important member of his party and Congress since he offered himself as a candidate for president.
We endorsed Rubio six years ago, but became disillusioned with his lack of attention to the office. A year ago, his terrible attendance record led us to call on him to resign. Although we have applauded some of his recent actions — for example, his attempts to win Zika funding — it has been too little, too late and too self-serving.
Examples of Rubio’s extreme positions are plentiful. He has indicated a willingness to sign legislation imposing a ban on abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. He opposes gay marriage. He opposes common-sense restrictions that could prevent terrorists from buying assault weapons.
Given his positions on guns and gay rights, it is offensive that Rubio sought to capitalize politically from the mass murder at a gay nightclub in Orlando. He even suggested that the horrific attack played a part in his decision to seek re-election to the Senate. Why? So he could continue to discriminate against gay people and continue to make such lethal weapons easily available?
In fact, Rubio’s decision was completely self-serving. He had promised not to run for the Senate again if his presidential bid failed. But when it did fail — so miserably that Donald Trump beat him even in Florida — Rubio saw himself without a national stage from which to compete for the 2020 GOP nomination.
And that’s what Rubio’s current race is all about — giving Rubio a platform from which to pursue the presidency. He will not even promise to serve the full six years if voters send him back to the Senate. In fact, he wouldn’t even truly serve the four years before the 2020 election. As he did in advance of the 2016 election, expect Rubio, if elected, to quickly blow off his Senate duties to run full time for president.
Rubio’s political calculations also have forced him to weasel-word his position on Donald Trump. Even though he has said that Trump is a con man who cannot be trusted with the nuclear codes, Rubio will not withdraw his support for the GOP nominee. By adopting that position, Rubio forfeits his claim to be the stronger candidate on national security.
And Rubio is sticking by Trump despite Trump’s offensive comments about women. Rubio attempted to disavow Trump’s 2005 comments about inappropriately grabbing and kissing women. But Trump’s disqualifying comments and actions are both chronic and continuing, and Rubio’s support for Trump is calculating and disappointing.
He backs Trump for the simple reason that Rubio figures he needs Trump’s most extreme supporters to win his race against Murphy.
Rubio’s lack of political courage is not surprising. He has run as the proud son of immigrants and claimed that he wished to play a key role in nudging his party toward a reasonable position on immigration reform. Yet when it seemed his position might harm him among hardline anti-immigration factions within the GOP, Rubio abandoned his own immigration reforms.
If Rubio is afraid to stand up to the racist, misogynistic factions that are crucial to any hope for a Trump victory, we cannot give any credence to his pledge that, if sent back to the Senate, he would be as much a brake on a President Trump as he would be on a President Clinton.
In contrast, we have every reason to think that a Sen. Murphy, under either president, would seek bipartisan paths toward fair taxation and wages, accessible health care, immigration reform, environmental responsibility and respect for women and minorities.
While a Sen. Rubio primarily would serve Sen. Rubio, a Sen. Murphy would serve Floridians.
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