Marco Rubio’s recent West Coast swing dinged his voting attendance record, vaulting him near the top of missed votes in the U.S. Senate this young session.
So far in the current session of Congress, Rubio has missed 45 percent of the votes. But the session is less than a month old, and nearly all the 49 votes-to-date were conducted in the past two weeks.
Rubio, a Republican from West Miami and potential presidential candidate, spent the week in California, fund raising and participating in a political retreat sponsored by heavyweight conservative donors the Koch brothers. Spokesman Alex Conant said the senator was flying back from California Friday.
Rubio is scheduled to be back in the Senate next week, and on Tuesday is scheduled to lead a subcommittee hearing on President Barack Obama’s new Cuba policy, which Rubio has sharply criticized.
Among the votes the senator missed this week was Thursday’s big showdown on whether to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which passed 62-36. Also missing the vote was Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the Democrat from Nevada, who is recovering from surgery.
GovTrack.us, a Web site designed to help the public monitor Congress, calculates that Rubio has missed 22 of 49 votes this session, or 45 percent. (Reid has thus far missed all votes.) A few other senators have missed about a dozen votes, while most have missed none.
For the last session of Congress – 2013-2014 – Rubio missed 6.8 percent of Senate votes, according to GovTrack data. That ranked him No. 15 among all 100 senators.
Since he joined the Senate in 2011, according to GovTrack, he has missed 8.3 percent of votes. .
Florida’s other senator, Democrat Bill Nelson of Orlando, has missed 1.7 percent, in a Senate career that dates to 2001.
Even before the missed votes took place, the Florida Democratic Party made hay of his scheduled absence, calling him “Runaway Rubio” and saying he was shirking his responsibilities to his constituents.
Richard S. Conley, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida who studies the presidency and Congress, said the missed-votes issue can hurt a politician sometimes. But it generally only matters on big, key votes.
Missing a bunch of smaller procedural votes likely won’t have much of an impact, he said.
Somebody possibly running for president, like Rubio, needs to participate in the significant votes related to key presidential campaign issues.
As a hypothetical, Conley said: “How could you criticize the president on his Iran policy if you don’t show up for a vote on Iran sanctions?”
“The key thing is to make sure you are there for the things that are going to be covered in the media,” Conley added. “He’s got to manage that carefully.”
But with the Senate calendar controlled by Republicans and Senate leaders needing the support of their caucus for important votes, more likely than not, Rubio and the other presidential contenders will be around for the pivotal votes of the year, Conley said.
Rubio’s spokesman said the senator has long juggled his family commitments with his Senate job. While the most-recent absences were for a political trip, “the vast majority of missed votes” over the past two years were when family and Senate duties clashed, Conant said in a statement.
“He is one of the only senators with young children who has not moved his family to D.C., and tries to spend as much time in Florida with them as possible,” he said. The senator also had to miss votes due to his mother’s health and for jury duty, he said.
As for the upcoming presidential election, Conant added: “It’s not unusual for presidential candidates to miss Senate votes. Senator Rubio has not made a final decision about 2016, but he’s seriously considering running for president and taking the necessary steps to prepare a competitive campaign. As he travels the country talking about his agenda to help the middle class, there will be no doubt where he stands on any important issues before the Senate.”