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Marco Rubio is re-upping his conservative bona fides.

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Joe Henderson: GOP wondering where Marco Rubio went

Marco Rubio is still a Republican, right?

I’m just trying to make sure. Lately, he has been saying and doing things that are, oh, what’s the word I’m looking for?

Liberal?

Let’s not go that far.

But the junior U.S. senator from Florida has been flashing a refreshing independent streak in recent days and weeks, a notion reinforced by his rather stunning assertion that American workers aren’t getting much benefit from President Donald Trump’s ballyhooed tax cuts.

Nope, Rubio said in a story published in the Economist, that just like opponents predicted, the windfall tax break is making a few corporate fat cats even more obese.

“There is still a lot of thinking on the right that if big corporations are happy, they’re going to take the money they’re saving and reinvest it in American workers,” he told the Economist. “In fact, they bought back shares, a few gave out bonuses; there’s no evidence whatsoever that the money’s been massively poured back into the American worker.”

That prompted this pithy quip from Matt House, spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer: “We couldn’t have said it any better ourselves.”

Quick! Someone get the vapors ready for all those “trickle down” twits who have pushed the laughably absurd notion that wages for the worker bees magically rise when the richest people get richer.

They’re not happy that Rubio has gone off the reservation.

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“It’s disappointing to see Marco Rubio echo some of the false rhetoric of tax reform opponents, and we hope he clarifies his remarks,” Brent Gardner, chief government affairs officer for Americans for Prosperity, told the Washington Post.

That outfit is joined at the hip with the billionaires Charles and David Koch.

The Americans For Tax Fairness estimated the tax cut could put an additional $1.4 billion into the Koch coffers.

I would doubt Rubio has much intention of clarifying anything of the sort. After all, he has been cooperating publicly with Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson on issues like hurricane relief.

Rubio has gone as far as to say he won’t campaign against Nelson in this fall’s Senate election against Gov. Rick Scott. He did ask his backers to support Scott, but it seemed kind of tepid.

What’s his game?

A quote in the Economist story that didn’t get as much attention as the one on tax cuts may provide the answer.

“Government has an essential role to play in buffering this transition,” Rubio. “If we basically say everyone is on their own and the market’s going to take care of it, we will rip the country apart, because millions of good hardworking people lack the means to adapt.”

To achieve that, he told the publication that he is cooking up a new conservative economic movement aimed at giving workers who felt Trump was the only one listening to them a more viable alternative.

It’s a bold gambit.

If Trump implodes, all bets are off and Rubio 2.0 might get some wind in the sails, even if some Republicans now are wondering whatever happened to that young man in a hurry they used to like so much.

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Michael Moline, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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