U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, the Republican from Florida running for president, pushed through several amendments to a State Department authorizing bill that just moved through a key committee.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday unanimously passed a fiscal 2016 authorizing bill that dictates operations for the State Department and U.S. embassies. The legislation now moves to the Senate floor, where it was expected to be offered as an amendment to a defense bill under consideration.
The focus of the legislation is reforming operations of the State Department, as well as improving security at U.S. diplomatic posts around the world. Rubio used the vehicle to address several other concerns; according to his Senate office, seven out of nine amendments he offered were either added to the bill by committee leaders or passed by voice vote of members.
Among other things, the Rubio-sponsored amendments would:
--Require the secretary of state to develop a curriculum for training U.S. foreign service officers on the scope and strategic value of international religious freedom.
--Require the secretary of state to certify each year that Hong Kong is sufficiently autonomous to justify any treatment it receives that is different from China;
--Require a report on anti-Israel and anti-Semitic activity at the United Nations and its agencies.
--Require an annual report on the status of U.S. humanitarian assistance to Haiti and an assessment of elections there.
--Require a report assessing U.S. support to the Venezuelan people, as well as an assessment of U.S. support of the democratic process there.
Said Rubio, in a statement on his amendments: “The U.S. faces a growing list of global challenges, and this authorization bill will help the State Department better advance America’s interests by implementing key security and operational reforms and ensuring resources are used more effectively. I’m pleased that it also includes key priorities that I have worked on and advocated for to promote democracy and human rights, especially in the Western Hemisphere, and advance U.S. interests around the world.”
Earlier this year, Rubio – a first-termer from West Miami – offered two dozen amendments to a Senate budget resolution. While the flurry of activity was somewhat symbolic, it did show a range of interests that are also animating his presidential campaign.