Marco Antonio Rubio (born May 28, 1971) is the junior United States Senator from Florida, serving since January 2011. He previously served as Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, and is currently a candidate for President of the United States in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Rubio is a Cuban American native of Miami. He graduated from the University of Florida and the University of Miami School of Law. In the late 1990s, he served as a City Commissioner for West Miami and was elected to the Florida House of Representatives in 2000, representing the 111th House district. He was elected Speaker in September 2005.
Since announcing his presidential candidacy on April 13, 2015 Rubio has participated in nationally televised debates, and has pitched his candidacy as an effort to restore the American Dream for middle- and working-class families.
Rubio's family was Roman Catholic, though from age 8 to age 11, he and his family attended The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints while living in Las Vegas, where his father worked as a bartender at Sam’s Town Hotel and his mother a housekeeper at the Imperial Palace Hotel and Casino. He received his first communion as a Catholic in 1984, before moving back to Miami with his family a year later. He was confirmed and married in the Catholic Church.
Rubio attended South Miami Senior High School and graduated in 1989. He then attended Tarkio College for one year on a football scholarship from 1989 to 1990, before enrolling at Santa Fe Community College (now Santa Fe College). He earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from the University of Florida in 1993, and his J.D. degree cum laude from the University of Miami School of Law in 1996. Rubio said that his education resulted in $100,000 of student loans, which he paid off in 2012.
While studying law, Rubio interned for U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. He also worked on Republican Senator Bob Dole’s 1996 presidential campaign. He served as a City Commissioner for West Miami before being elected to the Florida House of Representatives in early 2000.
In October 2011, newspapers reported that Rubio's previous statements that his parents were forced to leave Cuba in 1959, after Fidel Castro came to power, were incorrect. His parents left Cuba in 1956, during the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. According to The Washington Post, Rubio's "embellishments" resonated with many voters in Florida, and the newspaper claimed they would be less impressed by his family being economic migrants instead of political refugees from a communist regime. Rubio responded: “The real essence of my family’s story is not about the date my parents first entered the United States. Or whether they traveled back and forth between the two nations. Or even the date they left Fidel Castro’s Cuba forever and permanently settled here. The essence of my family story is why they came to America in the first place, and why they had to stay.”
Florida House of Representatives Elections
With Speaker Rubio (right), at his side, Speaker pro tempore Dennis K. Baxley, compliments House staff for their years of service April 4, 2007, in Tallahassee, Florida.
In late 1999, a special election was called to fill the seat for the 111th House District in the Florida House of Representatives, representing Miami. The seat had been held by Representative Carlos Valdes, who had run for and won an open Florida State Senate seat.
Rubio placed second in the Republican primary on December 14, 1999, but won the run-off election for the Republican nomination, by 64 votes. He then defeated Democrat Anastasia Garcia with 72% of the vote in a January 25, 2000 special election.
In November 2000, Rubio won re-election unopposed. In 2002, he won re-election to a second full term unopposed. In 2004, he won re-election to a third full term with 66% of the vote. In 2006, he won re-election to a fourth full term unopposed.
Tenure In December 2002, Rubio was appointed House Majority Leader by Speaker Johnnie Byrd. On September 13, 2005, Rubio clinched the Speakership after State Representatives Dennis Baxley, Jeff Kottkamp, and Dennis A. Ross dropped out. He became the first Cuban American to become Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.
Prior to assuming the Speakership, Rubio led a special committee chartered with crafting a response to Kelo v. City of New London, a 2005 Supreme Court decision which increased the power of government to take private property under eminent domain. The committee's proposal, which limited the authority of the state government to take private property, was passed as legislation.
Rubio is the author of the book 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future, which includes information that he compiled while traveling around the state and talking with citizens. This was done through what Rubio calls “Idearaisers”. Many of the issues that he pushed for in his first year as speaker came from ideas in this book. According to biographer Manuel Roig-Franzia, “Behind the scenes many Democrats considered Rubio someone with whom they could work.”
In 2007 Rubio advocated a plan which would have rolled back property taxes in the state to their 2001 level, and potentially eliminated them altogether, and increased sales taxes 1-2.5 percent to fund schools. The proposal would have reduced property taxes in the state by $40-50 billion. His proposal was passed in the House, but opposed by then-governor Charlie Crist, as well as by Florida Senate Republicans who said that the increase in sales tax would disproportionately affect the poor. Instead, Crist's proposal to double the state's property tax exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 for a tax reduction estimated by Crist to be $33 billion ultimately passed. Legislators called it “the largest tax cut in Florida’s history”. At the time, Republican tax reform advocate Grover Norquist described Rubio as “the most pro-taxpayer legislative leader in the country”.
During his time as Speaker of the Florida House, Rubio shared a residence with another Florida State Representative, David Rivera; the two men co-owned the property in Tallahassee. The home later fell into foreclosure after deferring months of mortgage payments. This issue surfaced in June 2010, during Rubio's run for the US Senate but was considered resolved according to Rubio's spokesman. In March 2015, Politico ran a story about this matter titled “Marco Rubio’s House of Horrors”, about which media critic Howard Kurtz commented: “If this is the worst ‘scandal’ Rubio faces, he’s in good shape.”
In 2010, Rubio was questioned about charges of nearly $110,000 made to his Republican Party American Express card during his two years as House speaker. The records listed some personal items, including grocery bills, wine, and plane tickets for his wife. Rubio said the charges were legitimate Republican Party expenses and that he personally paid American Express more than $16,000 for expenses unrelated to the party.
The start of Rubio's official welcome message at his U.S. Senate website
2010 election Main article: United States Senate election in Florida, 2010
On May 5, 2009, Rubio announced on his website that he planned to run for the United States Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martínez, who had announced that he would not seek reelection. Martinez subsequently announced (in August of 2009) that he would resign before completing his term, and upon his resignation was replaced by George LeMieux. Prior to his May 5, 2009 announcement, Rubio had been meeting with fundraisers and supporters throughout the state. Initially trailing by double-digits against the incumbent Governor of his own party, Charlie Crist, Rubio eventually surpassed Crist in polling for the Republican nomination.
On April 28, 2010, Crist announced he would be running without a party affiliation, effectively ceding the Republican nomination to Rubio. Several of Crist’s top fundraisers, as well as Republican leadership, refused to support Crist after Rubio won the Republican nomination for the Senate.
On November 2, 2010, Marco Rubio won the general election with 49 percent of the vote to Crist's 30% and Democrat Kendrick Meek's 20%. Following his victory in the elections, Rubio soon became the subject of speculation as a potential Republican candidate for the 2012 presidential election. Rubio stated shortly after taking office that he had no interest in running for president or vice president in 2012.
Upon taking office, Rubio hired Cesar Conda, former lobbyist and domestic policy chief adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, as his chief of staff.
Tenure Rubio voted against the Budget Control Act of 2011, which included mandatory budget cuts from "sequestration", and said later that defense spending should never have been linked to taxes and the deficit. "You're constantly being given false choices," Rubio said in August 2012. "'If you want to save national security, you have to agree to raise taxes that will hurt our economy.' Well, that's a false choice and quite frankly it's a destructive one."
In October 2011, Rubio co-sponsored the Reducing the Size of Federal Government Through Attrition Act. The bill, which was not voted on in the Senate, would have reduced federal employment by 10% by 2015.
In November 2011, Rubio and Senator Chris Coons (D-Del) co-sponsored the American Growth, Recovery, Empowerment and Entrepreneurship Act (AGREE Act). The bill would extend many tax credits and exemptions for businesses investing in research and development, equipment, and other capital. It would also provide a tax credit for veterans who start a business franchise, allow an increase in immigration for certain types of work visas, and strengthen copyright protections.
In 2012, Rubio introduced a bill, co-sponsored by Joe Manchin, to allow employers to be exempted from newly mandated coverage for contraception based on religious or moral grounds, but it was not adopted in the Senate.
Rubio voted against the 2012 Fiscal Cliff Resolutions. Although he received some criticism for this position, he responded: “Thousands of small businesses, not just the wealthy, will now be forced to decide how they'll pay this new tax, and, chances are, they'll do it by firing employees, cutting back their hours and benefits, or postponing the new hire they were looking to make. And to make matters worse, it does nothing to bring our dangerous debt under control.”
Senator Marco Rubio speaking at the 2012 CPAC in Washington, D.C.
In 2013, Rubio was part of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" Senators that crafted comprehensive immigration reform legislation.
In January 2013, Senator Rubio proposed a plan providing a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States. Rubio’s multistep plan included fines, back taxes, background checks, and a lengthy probationary period. His proposal contrasted with the Republican party’s long-held view that offering citizenship to undocumented immigrants is virtually the same as amnesty. At the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in 2015, Rubio stated that his biggest lesson from the experience was that Americans would not support comprehensive immigration reform until the border is secure.
Rubio was chosen to deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union Address. It marked the first time the response was delivered in English and Spanish. Rubio’s attempt to draw a strong line against the looming defense sequestration was undercut by fellow Republican senator Rand Paul’s additional response to Obama’s speech that called for the sequester to be carried out.
On April 17, 2013, Rubio voted against an expansion of background checks for gun purchases.
In May 2013, Rubio proposed the Regulation Costs to Small Businesses Act which would have required the Small Business Administration to conduct an annual study to estimate the total cost of regulations on small businesses.
In July 2013, Rubio and Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) introduced the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013. The bill would require federal agencies to monitor and regularly report on the performance of foreign assistance programs based on specified goals and metrics. The reports would be published publicly. According to Rubio: "America’s foreign assistance programs need greater transparency to ensure that they are advancing our values and interests overseas."
In 2014, Rubio co-sponsored with Senator Mark Warner legislation to revise the process for calculating and collecting student loans. The legislation would base student loan payments on the student's subsequent income and automatically collect payments from paychecks in order to simplify the process and eliminate loan servicer fees.
In 2014, Rubio asked Pope Francis "to take up the cause of freedom and democracy" in Cuba after helping negotiate the release of Alan Gross.
In 2015, at a summit organized by Concerned Veterans for America, Rubio said that the United States Department of Veterans Affairs was "simply buckling under the weight of its own bureaucracy" as he endorsed their proposal to open veterans' care to private providers.
Rubio has also taught a political science course at Florida International University during his U.S. Senate career. According to analysis by Vocativ as reported by Fox News, Rubio has missed 99 votes, or 8.3 percent of total votes, since taking office from January 2011 to February 2015.
In March 2015, Rubio and Senator Mike Lee proposed a tax plan which, according to The Wall Street Journal, combined thinking from "old-fashioned, Reagan-era supply siders" and a "breed of largely younger conservative reform thinkers" who are concerned with the tax burden on the middle-class. The plan would lower the top corporate income tax rate from 38% to 25%, eliminate taxes on capital gains, dividends and inherited estates, and create a new child tax credit worth up to $2,500 per child. The plan would set the top individual income tax rate at 35%. It also included a proposal to replace the means-tested welfare system, including food stamps and the Earned Income Tax Credit, with a new "consolidated system of benefits".
Committee assignments Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety, and Security
Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet
Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, (Chair)
Subcommittee on Science and Space
Committee on Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asia, The Pacific, and International Cybersecurity Policy
Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health Policy
Subcommittee on Near East, South and Central Asia, and Counterterrorism
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Transnational Crime, Civilian Security, Democracy, Human Rights, and Global Women's Issues, (Chair)
Select Committee on Intelligence
Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship
2016 presidential campaign Main article: Marco Rubio presidential campaign, 2016
Further information: United States presidential election, 2016
Marco Rubio speaking at the 2015 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland on February 27, 2015.
In April 2014, the departure of Cesar Conda, Rubio's chief of staff since 2011, was seen as a sign of Rubio's plans to run for President in 2016. Conda departed to lead Rubio's Reclaim America PAC as a senior adviser and became a part-time advisor to Rubio. Groups supporting Rubio raised over $530,000 in the first three months of 2014, most of which was spent on consultants and data analytics, in what was seen as preparations for a presidential campaign.
A poll from the WMUR/University, tracking New Hampshire Republican primary voters' sentiment, showed Rubio at the top alongside Kentucky senator Rand Paul later in 2013, but as of April 18, 2014, he had dropped to 10th place behind other Republican contenders. The poll, however, also suggests that Rubio is not disliked by the primary voters, which could be positive for him if other candidates choose not to run. Rubio placed second among potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates in an online poll of likely voters conducted by Zogby Analytics in January 2015.
In January 2015, it was reported that Rubio had begun contacting top donors and appointing advisors for a potential 2016 run, including George Seay, who previously worked on such campaigns as Rick Perry's in 2012 and Mitt Romney's in 2008, and Jim Rubright, who had previously worked for Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney, and John McCain. Rubio also instructed his aides to “prepare for a presidential campaign” prior to a Team Marco 2016 fundraising meeting in South Beach.
On April 13, 2015, Rubio announced that he will run for President of the United States in 2016. Rubio is acceptable to many parts of the GOP base in the 2016 presidential race; while not usually regarded by the base as a first choice as of July 2015, there was a growing audience for his youthfulness and oratorical skill.
During his campaign, Rubio has often pitched his candidacy as an effort to restore the American Dream for middle and working-class families, who may find his working-class and immigrant background appealing.
Senator Rubio speaking at the 2014 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland.
Rubio initially won his U.S. Senate seat with strong Tea Party support, but his 2013 push for comprehensive immigration reform and his support for strengthening the military have led the Tea Party to weaken ties with Rubio. As of early 2015, Rubio had a rating of 98.67 by the American Conservative Union based on his lifetime voting record in the Senate. Two senators were tied with Rubio, and two others had more conservative ratings. According to the National Journal, he was the 17th most conservative senator in 2013.
Abortion Rubio identifies as pro-life. He strongly opposes the Supreme Court’s ruling in Roe v. Wade, and has stated that the “right to life is a fundamental one that trumps virtually any other right I can imagine”. In August 2015, Rubio explained that he opposed abortions in cases of rape and incest.
Cannabis Regarding medical cannabis, Rubio says he would like to learn more about the "science of it", but is only open to allowing forms of the drug that do not cause a high. He firmly supports continued criminal penalties for recreational cannabis. He has stated "I don’t think legalizing marijuana or even decriminalizing it is the right decision for our country".
Energy and environment Rubio has stated that he has never denied that there is climate change, but questions that human activity is causing dramatic changes the way scientists are portraying them, arguing that proposals to address climate change would not work and would destroy the economy instead. The website PolitiFact has said that Rubio had consistently questioned the scientific understanding of climate change: “Rubio consistently either avoids the link between human activity and climate change, or outright denies it.”
In response to the encyclical Laudato si' by Pope Francis in 2015 in which he warns of the dangers of climate change, Rubio replied: “I have no problem with what the pope did” and “He is a moral authority and as a moral authority is reminding us of our obligation to be good caretakers to the planet. I’m a political leader. And my job as a policymaker is to act in the common good. And I do believe it’s in the common good to protect our environment, but I also believe it’s in the common good to protect our economy.”
Rubio has proposed a federal energy plan intended to address what he calls "one of the most politicized and regulated aspects of our economy" with "restrictions that result in higher prices and fewer jobs for our people in exchange for minimal environmental benefits". His plan would remove the crude oil export ban, block the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan for reducing carbon emissions which he says would result in the closure of coal-fired power plants, and transfer energy regulation to the states.
Taxes and spending Rubio supports an initiative to limit federal spending growth to the per capita inflation rate. He opposed Obama's stimulus package of 2009. He supports initiatives to balance the federal budget, including a balanced budget amendment. Rubio supports Social Security changes to prevent projected future deficits in the program. He believes the program should have a higher age for the start of benefits for workers who are more than ten years away from retirement to account for Americans living longer. He has stated his support of federal R&D funding and space exploration funding to promote technological innovation, which he sees as critical to the development to the economy.
Rubio's tax reform proposal calls for a simplified tax code which would include just two rates: 15% for those earning less than $75,000 annually and 35% for those earning more than that. It would eliminate capital gains taxes and add a new $2,500 per child tax credit for families. The corporate tax rate would be reduced to 25%.
In 2014, Rubio proposed legislation to replace the earned income tax credit with a federal wage enhancement for qualifying low-wage jobs. The proposal would apply to singles as well as married couples and families with children. It would also arrive in sync with a monthly paycheck rather than a year-end lump-sum credit. Rubio asserted that this was a "better way to support low-income workers than simply raising the minimum wage."
As U.S. Senator from Florida, Rubio has received grades of A in 2011, and B+ in 2012 and 2013 from the National Taxpayers Union, a conservative taxpayers advocacy organization.
Healthcare Rubio has stated that he would repeal and replace the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. He has proposed a health care reform plan which includes an up-front tax credit to be used for purchasing health insurance. It would also include federally-supported, state-based high-risk pools for those with pre-existing conditions to purchase health insurance, and would allow consumers to purchase health insurance across state lines. Consumer-oriented programs, like Health Savings Accounts, would be expanded. The plan also calls for Medicaid to be funded through per-capita block grants to states, which would eliminate federal mandates. Medicare would be transitioned into a premium support system, like Medicare Advantage and Medicare Part D, for future generations in order to provide consumer choice and encourage market competition.
Higher education Rubio has proposed a plan to reform the country's higher education system which includes enlarged vocational and apprenticeship programs, a proposed "Student Right to Know Before You Go Act" which would require colleges to inform students prior to taking out loans of the future income they could expect after obtaining a degree, a proposal to automatically base student loan payments on subsequent income, and enabling students to partner with investors who would receive a percentage of the students' income in return for funding their education. The plan also includes a commitment to create a new college accreditation program in the first 100 days of Rubio's administration.
Immigration As part of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight", Rubio co-authored the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 to give illegal immigrants a pathway to legal status. Rubio advocates stopping illegal immigration before addressing those illegal immigrants who are already in the country.
International relations and security Rubio advocates for a more active presence of United States in the global affairs and "a robust American role in confronting" Iran, Russia and North Korea. He opposes efforts by Obama to normalize political relations with Cuba. Rubio opposed Obama's deal with Iran on their nuclear program and stated that he would continue to increase sanctions on Iran until it agreed to end its enrichment program. He has pointed to the possibility of military action to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
In 2010, he stated that radical Islamist terrorists pose the greatest threat to the United States and that these radicals intend to impose their beliefs on the world. He voted "yes" on extending the roving wiretaps provision of the Patriot Act, which governs surveillance of suspected terrorists. Rubio has supported Obama’s initial response to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s invasion of Iraq. He has also called for arms to support moderate elements in the Syrian opposition and a bombing campaign to stop ISIL’s advance, but voted against an authorization to use force in Syria.
Social issues Rubio joined twenty-two other GOP senators in voting against reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, stating that he largely supported it but objected to certain new provisions in the bill. His political opponents were pleased that Rubio cast a vote that could hurt him in 2016, though Rubio voiced support for the overall law.
On March 14, 2013, Rubio reiterated his opposition to same-sex marriage at the Conservative Political Action Conference, saying "that states should have the right to define marriage in the traditional way".
Rubio opposed the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court based on "her case history and testimony regarding the Second Amendment at the state level, eminent domain takings and the so-called constitutional right to privacy that resulted in the Roe v. Wade decision".
As of 2010, Rubio was given a B+ rating by the National Rifle Association (NRA) for his stance on gun control.
Rubio has proposed a tax break for businesses that offer their employees paid family leave. Businesses offering their employees at least 4 weeks of paid family leave would receive a 25% tax credit. The tax break would be capped at 12 weeks and $4,000 per employee.
Marco and Jeanette Rubio just after he was sworn in as a U.S. Senator by Vice President Biden.
Rubio married Jeanette Dousdebes, a former bank teller and Miami Dolphins cheerleader, in 1998, and together they have four children. Rubio and his family live in West Miami, Florida. When he was 8 years old and living in Las Vegas, Nevada, Rubio joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), but he returned to Catholicism after receiving his first communion at 13 years old. Rubio attends Christ Fellowship, a Southern Baptist Church in West Kendall, Florida, as well as Catholic services.
In an interview in 2012, Rubio said: "I'm a Roman Catholic. I'm theologically in line with the Roman Catholic Church. I believe in the authority of the church, but I also have tremendous respect for my brothers and sisters in other Christian faiths. I recognize, as the Catholic Church does, that there are excellent teachings of the Word throughout other denominations. The elements of salvation are found in these churches as well."
After leaving the Florida House of Representatives due to term limits in January 2009, Rubio started his own law firm. He was also hired by the Florida International University for a teaching position after agreeing to raise a large portion of his salary through private contributions. Billionaire auto dealer and Miami power-broker Norman Braman gave $100,000 to finance Rubio’s position.
Electoral history Florida U.S. Senate election 2010
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Marco Rubio 2,645,743 49%
Independent Charlie Crist 1,607,549 30%
Democratic Kendrick Meek 1,092,936 20%
Libertarian Alexander Snitker 24,850 <1%
Books written by Rubio 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future. Regnery Publishing. 2006. ISBN 978-1596985117.
An American Son: A Memoir. Sentinel HC. 2012. ISBN 978-1595230942.
American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone. Sentinel HC. 2015. ISBN 978-1595231130.