Marco Rubio is cranking up his case that critics of his Senate absenteeism are holding him to a double-standard, pointing out those scolding him for playing hooky never complained about Barack Obama and other Democrats missing votes while running for president.
Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid was the latest to call for the Republican Florida senator’s resignation.
“Why should the taxpayers of this country and people of Florida put up with having only one senator? Doesn’t seem fair to me,” Reid told Politico.
Rubio spokesman Alex Conant shot back: “I must have forgotten Harry Reid similarly calling on Barack Obama to resign the Senate when he missed even more votes to run for president.”
And Rubio sent out a fundraising email on Friday calling Reid’s comments “utter hypocrisy.”
“When senators run for office, sometimes they miss some votes – this has been true of plenty of Senator Reid's fellow Democrats. Have you ever heard Senator Reid ask a single one of them to resign? I haven't,” he said.
Indeed, the record shows while Rubio has had the worst Senate absentee rate this year among presidential candidates, former Democratic candidates were even bigger offenders.
A breakdown by GovTrack shows Rubio missed 34 percent of Senate votes this year.
But then-Sen. Obama missed 37.6 percent of his votes in 2007, and over 64 percent in 2008, according to the same source.
Then-Sen. John Kerry, also a Democrat, missed 64 percent in 2003, and nearly 90 percent in 2004, when he was engaged in a grueling campaign against then-President George W. Bush.
PolitiFact cited these numbers in rating Rubio’s remarks on the matter at Wednesday’s GOP debate as true. At the debate, Rubio was forced to address his voting record when asked about a Florida newspaper calling on him to go to work or resign.
“Look, a lot us are frustrated by our jobs and office politics. But we still show up for work every day to earn a paycheck,” the Sun Sentinel’s editorial board wrote. "Either do your job, Sen. Rubio, or resign it.”
Rubio called this “bias,” noting that Obama and Kerry missed a lot of votes during their White House campaigns, and yet the newspaper endorsed both (though the same newspaper did not endorse Obama in 2012).
Rosemary O’Hara, the paper’s editorial page editor, defended the criticism of Rubio in an interview with Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.”
“When did it become okay for politicians to not do their jobs because they want to do another job?” she asked. “He’s not at the committee meetings, not at intelligence briefings -- well some, but he sends his staff,” she said.
As for why the newspaper called out Rubio but not Democrats, she told PolitiFact that not only is Rubio their home-state senator, but Democratic senators who ran didn’t complain about their job.
She was referring to a Washington Post article that described Rubio’s frustrations with the Senate. The article quoted an anonymous “friend” saying “he hates it.” Rubio said he doesn’t know if “hate” is the right word but acknowledged, “I’m frustrated.”
Reid, speaking with Politico, seemed to reference the same article. “For Marco Rubio here to dump on the Senate, this institution established by our founding fathers, he should be ashamed of himself,” Reid said, adding that Obama “never lost interest in the Senate” while seeking the White House – though he missed votes.
Democrats aren’t the only ones who have criticized Rubio for skipping votes. Fellow Floridian Jeb Bush, the former governor who is looking to arrest Rubio’s rise in the polls, also suggested Rubio resign during Wednesday’s debate. Rubio was seen as getting the better of him by accusing Bush of attacking him because advisers told him to.
Bush stood by his criticism in an interview Thursday with Fox News.
“A lot of people are frustrated with their jobs all across this country but continue to show up to work," Bush told Fox News.
Rubio told Fox News earlier this week that he doesn’t “like” missing votes in Washington, “but I'm not there because I'm fighting for the future of America.”
The New York Times also took a shot at several GOP candidates in an editorial on Thursday. The editorial called on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to pack in his campaign and return to governing the Garden State, while accusing other Republican candidates of ignoring their states.
“Since when does shortchanging your home state — looking at you, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal — qualify a public servant to be president?” the editorial said.
Fox News’ Mike Emanuel and John Roberts contributed to this report.