WASHINGTON (AP) – After missing almost a third of Senate votes this year, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio made a rare appearance in the Senate Tuesday — to try and pass a bill that would crack down on federal employees who fail to do their jobs.
"This should actually be the rule in the entire government," the Florida senator said. "If you're not doing your job, you should be fired."
Rubio sought unanimous approval for legislation that would give Veterans Affairs officials more power to demote or remove employees. Republicans have pushed the measure in the wake of a scandal over chronic delays for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records covering up the waits.
Democrats blocked his effort.
Rubio also cast a vote Tuesday on legislation that would crack down on cities that shield residents from federal immigration authorities — the first vote he has made since Sept. 24, according to the Senate's website. In the end, Senate Democrats blocked the bill.
The Florida senator has missed more votes than any of the other senators competing for the GOP nomination — Ted Cruz of Texas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. His rivals have made it an issue in the campaign, and so did Democrats.
"Pro tip from Marco Rubio to Marco Rubio: If you don't do your job, you should be fired," said Christina Freundlich, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee.
Rubio missed a key vote on defunding Planned Parenthood last month while he was campaigning at a Florida retirement community. After calling out the Obama administration for not doing more to free Americans held in Iran, he skipped voting on a Senate resolution demanding the Americans' release and went to a fundraiser instead.
Rubio has said he hasn't missed any votes where the outcome would have been changed had he been present. His argument is that no progress can be made in Washington until Republicans retake the White House.
He's hardly the first senator to miss votes while on the presidential campaign trail. Graham missed the immigration vote Tuesday.
Rubio took advantage of his brief time in the Senate to argue for the veterans' bill, saying Veterans Affairs officials who were doing their jobs would be better served by the legislation.
"It isn't fair to them that there are people on the payroll taking up seats, taking up slots, taking up money and taking up time that aren't doing their jobs and they literally cannot be fired," Rubio said.