U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) has ambitious plans this week. As the Senate wrestles with the Republicans' Keystone XL pipeline legislation, Rubio will be skipping town to bolster his presidential bid. This legislation has implications for fossil-fuel dependence and climate change. And one of its amendments may address offshore drilling in the senator's own state of Florida. But Rubio has a book to sell and a campaign to fund.
This isn't the first time Rubio has turned his back on issues that matter for his state.
Florida is ground zero for climate change. According to America's top scientists, the state is "exceptionally vulnerable" to sea-level rise and extreme heat events that trigger asthma attacks, heat stroke, and other health risks.
Yet Rubio willfully ignored the climate threat. He has leaned on the "I'm not a scientist" line, placing him in the GOP know-nothing camp. And he has opposed any effort to address climate change, putting him firmly in the GOP do-nothing crowd as well.
Paralysis may play well with the conservative base, but it won't help Rubio in a general election.
A climate denier can't win the White House in 2016. Polling shows that too many Americans are concerned about climate change to give the highest office in the land to someone who ignores this threat to our health, economy, and security.
According to a Washington Post/ABC News survey, a full 57 percent of Republicans, 76 percent of independents, and 79 percent of Democrats support limiting climate-change pollution from power plants. In Rubio's own state of Florida, a bipartisan team of researchers from Hart Research Associates and American Viewpoint found that 74 percent of voters favor limits on this dangerous pollution.
Voters are looking for a leader who will confront the big challenges, not deny their existence.
And there is no denying Rubio is a denier. Noticing changes in the climate is not enough to place you in the realm of reality. The overwhelming scientific evidence confirms that those changes are caused by human activity. You have to recognize both facts in order to shake the denier label. Yet last week, Rubio voted against two amendments acknowledging the role human's play in causing climate change.
Like so many other Republican lawmakers, Rubio is sticking to denial in the face of scientific fact, voter concern, and campaign strategy, perhaps because it benefits another important force: political donors.
Over the past two years, oil, gas, and coal companies spent more than $721 million to support their candidates and interests in Congress, and now GOP lawmakers are pushing a Big Polluter agenda. This dirty agenda includes trying to block measures to reduce climate-change pollution from fossil fuels.
These same companies will no doubt pour enormous amounts of money into the 2016 elections. Last weekend, for instance, Rubio kicked off his book tour at a forum hosted by the Koch brothers in Palm Springs for potential GOP candidates and conservative activists and donors.
Pit stops like these will fill the coffers, but come Election Day, most voters will be looking for a leader who doesn't ignore scientific reality and who stands up for the people of his state.