ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio questioned the resume and effectiveness in Congress of his Democratic challenger, while U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy said his Republican opponent had "one foot out the door" on his way to a second run for the White House during their first face-to-face debate Monday.
Under questioning from Murphy, Rubio promised he would serve a full term in the U.S. Senate. Rubio ran for the GOP presidential nomination before losing to Republican nominee Donald Trump.
"I will serve six years in the United States Senate, God-willing, and I'm looking forward to it," Rubio said.
Murphy defended his professional accomplishments after Rubio accused him of inflating his resume.
"You changed your name. You changed your party and you moved from South Beach to West Palm Beach to run for Congress," Rubio said. "That's not a flip-flop. That's a metamorphosis."
The debate started out as a referendum on the presidential candidates, with Rubio and Murphy each questioning the other about their support for the presidential nominees of their parties.
Murphy defended former U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton when asked why Floridians should trust him when they don't trust Clinton, who he is backing. He chastised Rubio for not dropping his support for Trump, as some Republicans did after a video surfaced of the New York businessman talking about sexually touching women without their permission.
Rubio said he doesn't trust either candidate but he's asking voters to send him back to Washington so he can stand up to the next president, whether it's Trump or Clinton.
"I've condemned him when he has said things that are aggressive, outrageous, vulgar and inappropriate, and I will continue to do so," Rubio said.
When asked about why he no longer supporter comprehensive immigration reform, Rubio said no legislation can be expected to pass unless Americans are assured their borders are secure, and the immigration system is modernized and streamlined.
Murphy accused Rubio of flip-flopping on the issue, but Rubio shot back that Murphy only became interested in immigration "four weeks ago" and said Murphy supported a Homeland Security bill that would have started deportation for workers who had entered the United States without legal permission before age 16.
HEALTH CARE REFORM
When asked about President Barack Obama's health care law, Rubio likened it to the Titanic. He said he supports a plan to replace the health care law that would offer tax-free money from their employer to buy health insurance and those without it would have refundable tax credit to buy health insurance.
When asked about climate change and rising waters along Florida's coastlines, Rubio said money should be spent on stopping flooding. He said China's carbon emissions outweigh the benefits of any cuts made in the United States, while those efforts could cost jobs. Murphy said Miami is one of the cities that are most affected by climate change.
Murphy accused Rubio of wanting to restrict women's right to abortion, even for those diagnosed with Zika, which can cause birth defects in babies of pregnant women with the virus. Rubio said that although he respected the views of people who support abortion, he believed "an unborn child had a right to live."
Rubio then shot back at Murphy that he resented the congressman's attempt to portray him as someone who doesn't respect women.
"Congressman, you're the one that posted a picture four years ago on Facebook of you groping a woman. That's inappropriate behavior!" Rubio said.
Murphy stumbled over some words and then replied, "Let's just talk about Donald Trump again, right?"