Key point: As the lone Gulf Coast Senator to vote against the RESTORE Act, Marco Rubio sent a strong message to Floridians that he puts the interests of the Tea Party ahead of his constituents.
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s self-serving explanation of his vote against the RESTORE Act — he was the only U.S. senator on the Gulf Coast to do so — can’t disguise how shocking and disappointing the vote was.
The RESTORE Act will funnel the vast majority of the fines paid by BP for the 2010 oil spill to the Gulf Coast states most affected, including Florida. It is critical to funding important economic and environmental projects that will help the Gulf Coast not just recover, but face an even better future.
Rubio, in public statements and a viewpoint published Friday in the News Journal, cast his “no” vote as a matter of principle, pointing to his “spirit of compromise” in supporting the original bill last year. But now, he said, it is “no longer a Gulf Coast restoration bill.”
But to the apparent shock of no one but Rubio, the bill that passed required further compromise to gain the support of senators from other states who were less interested in the recovery of the Gulf Coast than in the potential dollars at stake.
The final bill siphoned some money for programs that likely will spend it elsewhere than the Gulf Coast. On this we agree with Rubio: that is less than ideal. But welcome to the kind of legislative politics that has existed since the founding of this nation.
Despite this, the bill that passed still delivers on the vast majority of what its sponsors originally proposed; if the House follows through, it will mean billions of dollars for Gulf Coast communities, including counties across Northwest Florida. How much will depend on the amount of the fines levied against BP.
If Rubio’s stand for political “purity” had prevailed, and the bill had failed, it would have meant all of the BP fine money would have ended up in the U.S. Treasury. There is and was no other guarantee that any, much less most, of the money would end up on the Gulf Coast.
Rubio also complained that the bill “would raise taxes.” Here the tale gets murkier.
According to reports, what happened was that in the complex maw that is congressional budgeting, the bill now includes revenue offsets related to an effort to give tax breaks through interest rate adjustments to corporations. It delays the tax breaks.
Critics of Rubio’s vote note that his turnaround on the bill followed a pointed warning from powerful GOP anti-tax activist Grover Norquist that the offsets in the RESTORE Act violate the “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” Rubio and other politicians signed, promising to oppose any effort to raise taxes or even reduce or eliminate existing deductions and credits unless matched with offsetting provisions.
It shows the foolishness of pledging in advance how you will act on matters of serious policy. In doing so Rubio surrendered his ability to vote in his own constitutents’ important, clear interests.
It’s just as bad if Rubio put corporate interests ahead of those of Florida residents.