U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio spoke to constituents and reporters Friday, highlighting several of his legislative accomplishments during the 115th Congress.
But Rubio also addressed the way the current Congress is coming to a close, with yet another partial shutdown of the federal government.
“Ultimately, these government shutdowns are not an ideal way to function,” Rubio said. “I’ve never seen anybody win one.”
Rubio said there is plenty of blame to go around. He argued the Democrats are playing politics, but said President Donald Trump bears some responsibility as well.
“They want to deny him a political priority,” Rubio said of Democrats’ opposition to funding Trump’s proposed border wall. “And I don’t think that is a valid reason to do this.
“… Could the White House have handled this better? Absolutely.”
He said the Trump administration was not clear about its end goal regarding a funding bill, which contributed to the eventual shutdown.
“The Senate passed, without objection, a funding bill that kept the government open until February. We did so because on Wednesday afternoon, the Vice President told us that the White House was open to that bill. We wake up Thursday morning, they’ve changed their mind.”
But as parts of the government grind to a halt, Friday’s meeting also sought to emphasize what Rubio had accomplished over the past two years.
Rubio focused on three bills in particular. First, he noted his efforts to secure funding and authorization for the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA) Storage Reservoir. The EAA Reservoir has been a focus of other members of the Florida delegation, as well as the state legislature.
It’s goal is to divert discharges from Lake Okeechobee into the new reservoir instead of surrounding estuaries. President Trump signed off on the project in October.
“This single project isn’t going to solve the whole problem,” Rubio said.
“But it is part of ensuring that we keep the momentum” in addressing the algae issues plaguing the state.
Second, Rubio highlighted the Cuban Military Transparency Act, which sought to direct dollars from American tourists away from entities controlled by the Cuban government and into the pockets of private Cuban businesses.
The law seeks to “identify and deny any financial transactions to the Cuban regime’s military and its subdivisions as well as leadership,” read a report from the Hill when the bill first surfaced in 2015.
“What the Cuban government is trying to do is they are trying to create an economic dictatorship to build on the military one and the political one,” Rubio said of his motivation to tackle the issue.
Finally, the soon-to-be senior Senator from Florida touted his work on a federal measure to push back against unregulated sober homes in the state.
While the homes are designed to help addicts transition back to public life after rehab, some of these homes actually continue to provide opioids to addicts to keep them in the rehab system. That’s because the homes can receive a piece of available insurance money. By keeping addicts in the system, that money continues to flow.
Rubio says he was alerted to the issue by state and local lawmakers, such as Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg.
“The state passed some laws but they asked us to pass a federal law that made patient brokering a federal offense,” Rubio recalled.
“The reason why I’m very proud of that achievement is because it’s a good example of how you come back home, you engage in the community, you hear about a real world problem in the state you represent, and you’re able to help craft, working with local partners, a solution. And you’re able to go to Washington to make it happen.”
And looking forward to 2019, Rubio also reiterated his support for clemency for the Groveland Four.
“It is important that that be a page in our history that we confront directly. It is important when states and governments abuse their powers to violates people’s rights, as occurred in that case, that that’s something you acknowledge and not sweep under the rug even if the people who were impacted by it are no longer with us.”