WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday took some liberties in attempting to rationalize the spotty Senate attendance record he's amassed while running for the White House.
The senator, who has been criticized repeatedly for missing votes, argued in an interview with CNN that his presidential campaign took priority over showing up to the Senate since he would, if elected president, force the chamber to actually consider important issues.
But even as Rubio downplayed the significance of the actual act of voting -- “I mean,” he said, “the most important thing a senator does is constituent service" -- he overstated his commitment to other elements of the job.
“We do all the intelligence briefings,” Rubio said, when asked whether he considered those sessions unimportant. “I was just there this Tuesday. I got fully briefed and caught up on everything that’s happening in the world.”
The “we” in that statement gives Rubio some leeway here. Staffers can attend some intelligence briefings, but not others. A committee spokesperson did not return a request for comment as to whether staff were permitted to attend this particular briefing.
Still, Rubio is wrong to imply that he personally attends all these sessions.
As BuzzFeed reported, the senator missed one Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Jan. 13 to attend a fundraiser in midtown Manhattan, and another this spring to do a fundraising swing through California.
Rubio's latest skipped intelligence hearing appears to have come just days before his comments to CNN. On Thursday, Oct. 22, the panel held a closed-door hearing (the second of the week, after the Tuesday session Rubio referred to) at 2:30 p.m, according to its website.
That same day, a major fundraiser was held for the Rubio campaign in Los Angeles, co-hosted by, among others, producer Burt Sugarman and his wife, former Entertainment Tonight host Mary Hart. Rubio’s campaign has ignored repeated emails requesting comment as to whether he attended that fundraiser. But a Los Angeles Times item from Oct. 22 reported: “Marco Rubio arrives in L.A. for a fundraiser even as some have assailed him for missing votes in Washington.” The Washington Post also reported that after a bill of Rubio's failed to pass Tuesday, the senator "was done for the week, missing the next three votes."
A Huffington Post reporter who was staking out Thursday's hearing did not see Rubio coming in or out of the meeting. However, the committee as a general practice declines to comment on attendance.
The Rubio campaign referred HuffPost to Rubio's Senate office, which declined to comment.
Rubio isn't the only presidential candidate with a high number of missed votes. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) have both had similar problems showing up to work, though they've struggled less than the Florida Republican has. On the other side of the aisle, former Sen. Barack Obama also had trouble making it to votes while on the campaign trail.
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