Democrats, veterans charge Marco Rubio is holding up military spending bill
Marco Rubio raises a warning flag for the Venezuelan elections. Image via AP.

Rubio is delaying a Senate vote, while pushing 38 amendments.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is “grandstanding” with dozens of proposed amendments to the military spending bill.

That’s the take away from several veterans who joined a call with the Florida Democratic Party Wednesday, arguing the Republican Senator blocked the spending bill because Democrats wouldn’t include his amendments.

They turned their ire on Rubio for blocking the National Defense Authorization Act. Rubio had loaded it up with 38 amendments in November, seeking to add in everything from funding for an artificial intelligence program with Israel to importation limits on Chinese goods that may have been produced with forced labor.

The Democratic Senate leadership had put together their own list of 19 amendments. Rubio and four other Republican Senators said they would hold up the $778 billion bill unless Democrats agreed to include their amendments in the Democrats’ package. When the Democrats refused, Rubio blocked the bill.

At stake, said the veterans, are such things as military pay raises, money for necessary maintenance at military bases, Veterans Affairs funding for a “burn pit” registry, cyber command, military construction, ships and aircraft, and — for the first time ever — extended paid maternity and paternity leave for service women and men.

The four veterans who spoke made not-so-subtle suggestions that Rubio ought to be defeated in the 2022 General Election, though none of them explicitly mentioned U.S. Rep. Val Demings or any of the other Democrats running to oppose him. They also made reference to reports Rubio has missed 12 recent Senate committee hearings.

Rubio and his re-election campaign have been accusing Demings of supporting slave labor in China because she wants the defense spending bill approved without Rubio’s package of amendments.

“Washington Democrats held up defense funding entirely because Biden administration officials and Big Business wanted to preserve slave labor in China,” Elizabeth Gregory, communications director for Rubio’s campaign, said in a written statement. “Val Demings could have used her voice in Congress to advocate against genocide, but instead she fell in line with Pelosi and Schumer, like she always does.”

“I’m very disappointed that Marco Rubio is playing politics with the NDAA,” said Lacy Hollings, an Army combat veteran and former translator in Afghanistan.

Retired Navy flight officer and commander Tom Keen of Orlando is running for the Florida House of Representatives in House District 50. Two others also have backgrounds in Democratic campaigns.

Keen criticized Rubio for putting at risk spending needed to support military families.

“The Navy taught me three core values: honor, courage, and commitment,” Keen said. “I’m here today to tell you that Mr. Rubio has failed all three. He failed to honor our service members and military families by holding up the vote on this critical legislation. … He lacked the courage to push back against those who want to politicize this bipartisan bill. … And he failed in his commitment to represent Floridians by not showing up and doing his job.”

“For Sen. Rubio to grandstand and delay this effort the way he has done over the past week or so is just incredible to me,” added Claudette Wells, a retired Navy Captain. “I think his personal agenda in delaying this process has been for his own benefit and looking ahead … It has had negative, collateral impact on other amendments and issues that could have been included in the NDAA, things that should have been timely discussed in a bipartisan way the way they have been for ever single year in the past.”

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected].


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