Fighting for Florida

As I reflect on the legacy of dedication and service that belongs to the men and women of the United States Armed Forces, I feel great pride in their accomplishments as well as reverence for the sacrifices that have been the price of those accomplishments. Today, as we mark POW/MIA Recognition Day, we dedicate ourselves to honoring all American prisoners of war and those missing in action.

As Americans, we never forget the promise made to all who wear or have worn our nation's uniform that, even if they are lost, our nation will never stop looking for them.  More than 83,000 Americans remain missing in action today.  To those missing a relative serving in our armed forces, I pray for the swift and safe return of your loved one. I also pray that you feel the gratitude and support of the American people, who live with tremendous pride and appreciation for the service that your family has offered our nation.

Today we also remember those who were prisoners of war or missing in action that our nation has since lost. These Americans and their families have paid the ultimate sacrifice to defend our freedom, and we remain indebted to them. Their sacrifices have built this nation and ensured that its promise lives on for future generations to inherit.

On this day, exactly 227 years ago, our Founding Fathers gathered in Philadelphia to sign what would come to be one of the most important documents in the history of mankind: the United States Constitution.

Today, it is “We the People” who continue to celebrate this time-tested document and the unique way of life it has safeguarded for us.

The principles of limited government and separation of powers embodied in our Constitution have seen this nation through times of great challenge and great triumph, including two World Wars. They have paved the way to economic success and growth, serving as a beacon of hope to the rest of the world and proving that a people, given the freedom to fully utilize their God-given rights, can build a society of unprecedented liberty and prosperity. Generations of Americans have fought to not only defend the Constitution and the vision of the Founding Fathers, but also to ensure that America is ever more faithful to its principles.

Yet these principles, which have served us so well, have fallen under attack. Proponents of big government and a Washington-knows-best agenda have pushed the size of government far beyond the limits of the Constitution. The separation of powers, so carefully spelled out in the Constitution, has also been weakened by overreaching executives and judges, as well as legislators who cheer them on.

While this disregard has proven challenging for champions of liberty and the rule of law, it presents our generation with an opportunity to defend our Constitution, and the very values that make our nation exceptional.

Today, we celebrate not only our Constitution, but the values upon which it was drafted, and the values upon which this great nation still stands. But it is up to us to pass on this legacy of liberty, and preserve it for future generations. In doing so, I am confident that it will lead us toward another American century.

Jul 09 2014

I Stand With Israel

Hundreds of rockets have been fired at Israel in recent days from Gaza. The attacks have significantly disrupted daily life in many parts of the country as Israelis of all ages have been forced to huddle in shelters as warning sirens sound. There have even been reports of weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs interrupted by rocket fire as the guests had to run for cover. As during past trials, the Israeli people are showing themselves to be courageous amid the uncertainty and threats. 

The Israeli government has shown great restraint, and went to great lengths to try to avoid this confrontation. However, Hamas was intent on starting this conflict. While I am pleased by the apparent success of the U.S.-supported Iron Dome system in preventing significant rocket strikes on populated territory thus far, Israel cannot rely solely on this defensive shield. No country should be expected to put its citizens through the situation that millions of Israelis face. Israel has the right to take actions to defend its people, including striking rocket launch sites and the leadership of Hamas. I fully support those efforts.

Unfortunately, the Obama administration, aided by many in the mainstream media, has chosen this crisis as an opportunity to continue its criticism of Israeli policy toward the Palestinians. It is shameful that a senior White House official would choose a moment of crisis to deliver a public diatribe in Israel against the government’s handling of relations with the Palestinians. Even if it wasn’t apparent to the Obama administration until recently, the events of recent days show once and for all that Israel does not have a serious partner for peace. Terrorists cannot be moderated by “technocratic” governments. Hamas cannot be turned into a legitimate political actor through backroom deals based on Hamas’ supposed weakness.

Instead of directing ire at our ally, Israel, U.S. officials should instead be sending a clear message to Palestinian President Abbas: If you are serious about peace, you should support Israel’s right to exist and renounce violence and terror instead of partnering with bloodthirsty killers.

Instead of facilitating Abbas’ narrative about the supposed technocratic nature of this government, the administration should state clearly that U.S. assistance will be suspended unless the government meets the requirements of U.S. law. This is the choice that Abbas needs to make. He cannot continue to have it both ways.

I hope that these events will cause the administration to rethink its entire approach to the Israeli-Palestinian issue. This is not about punishing all Palestinians. It is about recognizing the reality of the situation on the ground. It is about clearly stating to moderate Palestinians, and there are many of them, that they are not well served by leaders who are not willing to make courageous decisions for peace. It is about American leadership that recognizes America’s unique role in the world and matches it with the will to support our allies and oppose our enemies. It is about supporting Israel in its hour of need. 

While hurricane season officially begins Sunday, June 1, we want to help ensure your family is prepared in case a hurricane or tropical storm hits Florida.

In an op-ed for the Sun Sentinel, Senator Rubio urges the U.S. Department of Education to end its baseless investigation into the Florida Bright Futures scholarship program, highlighting the program’s fundamental purpose: to assist promising students with rising costs of higher education based solely on merit. Excerpts from the piece are below:

For over two decades, Bright Futures has helped thousands of students finance their education at our state's colleges and universities. Its promise has been simple: for high-school students who achieve a certain grade point average, standardized test score and coursework, the state gives scholarships covering all or most of their college tuition.

The program has been entirely merit-based, using the most objective standards available.

If people believe the wrong priorities are being set, our political process provides avenues to advocate for legislative changes or elect representatives who do share their priorities. That's what makes this federal intrusion unnecessary.

A federal civil rights investigation is a serious matter that should be reserved for instances where deliberate violations of civil rights are clearly occurring.

We had many vigorous debates about the program and its future during my time in the legislature, including whether its changing standards were leaving out too many students. The criticism that existed then, as it does now, was that this program had the effect of transferring money from Florida lottery players that tend to be poorer to students who tended to come from wealthier families.

It was a valid concern, and one we made efforts to address by prioritizing more need-based grant and loan programs, as well as the underlying factors that made it harder for students to achieve the Bright Futures academic eligibility standards. It reinforced in me the belief that our K-12 education system should provide greater freedoms to parents to help their kids escape failing schools, expanded learning and mentoring opportunities for at-risk kids.

But ultimately, these choices, debates and arguments belong at the state and local level. It's one thing to question one's policy priorities, but it's another matter to suggest that the architects of a scholarship program — one that has already helped thousands of Hispanic and African-American students — may be guilty of discriminating against these communities.

If people want to debate the underlying merits of the Bright Futures standards, I can respect that. And if someone wants to scrap Bright Futures entirely because they believe there is simply no infallible and completely objective way of setting eligibility standards for it, they should make that argument before the state legislature.

But encouraging the federal government to interfere and decide for us would set a dangerous precedent that all Floridians will one day come to regret.

Read the entire op-ed here.

Last fall, I had a chance to visit Booker T. Washington Senior High School in Miami, where I concluded my visit by checking out the football team’s practice. At that time, they were in the middle of a playoff run that not only resulted in them winning the state championship, but also the national championship for high school football.

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Several of their players are also headed to play college football this fall.

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This past Friday, I had the privilege of addressing Booker T.’s football players, coaches and families at a banquet honoring their season. Here are some photos from the event:

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This Memorial Day, I join my fellow Floridians and the entire country in celebrating the bravery and heroism of our servicemen and women, both past and present, who honorably answer the call in defense of liberty. For me it is an honor to work in the Senate on behalf of all of our military men, women and families.

On Memorial Day we remember our American heroes who have paid the ultimate sacrifice in order to preserve the freedom we all hold dear. These heroes are America’s greatest blessing, and our nation is safer, stronger and more prosperous because of their sacrifices.

And while this day commemorates those we have lost, we also remember the American service members currently deployed all over the world and our veterans here at home. It is a reminder for us all to take the time both as a nation and personally, to reflect on the sacrifices they make on a regular basis, and of our obligation as a nation to honor that sacrifice by caring for our veterans that carry on the memories of their fallen brothers and sisters in arms. It’s why dealing with the ongoing Veterans Affairs scandal, swiftly and decisively, must be an urgent priority.

May God bless you, may God bless our men and women in uniform, and may God always bless the United States of America.

Today, Senator Rubio met with student groups from Miami Central High School in Miami, Florida and International Studies Prep Academy in Coral Gables, Florida. Rubio and the group of 16 students discussed the importance of higher education and achieving the American Dream in the 21st century. Below are pictures from their meeting.

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Rubio and students pose for a selfie.

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Rubio discusses higher education and the American Dream with two student groups from South Florida.

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Rubio with students from Miami Central High.

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Rubio with students from International Studies Prep Academy.

As I reflect today on the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, which paved the way for the integration of American schools, I am reminded of the richness of my own experiences in the public schools growing up.

I spent most of my childhood in Miami, apart from a few years in Las Vegas. In both cities, I attended schools of great ethnic and racial diversity. In Las Vegas, there were white non-Hispanic students, African American students, and many whose families had immigrated from Mexico. And in Miami, my high school football team was as diverse as the city I called home. 

I’m grateful to have been exposed to such diversity. It gave me, early in life, an appreciation of the varied cultural backgrounds that combine to make America the vibrant and thriving global beacon that it is. I learned from my classmates in a way that would have been impossible just a few decades earlier. But even more importantly, I gained an understanding of what unites Americans as a people. All parents from all backgrounds want their kids to have access to the promise of America, and this starts with our children receiving a world class education in a safe and welcoming environment.

Ours is the greatest nation in history, but our history is not without blemish. Slavery and the discrimination that followed it violated the founding ideal that everyone deserves an equal shot at success. Today, we still carry on the fight for equal opportunity. We still have work ahead of us to heal the wounds inflicted in a time of great injustice. But on this day, we remember the case of Brown vs. Board of Education, one of many instances in our history when the courage of a few who dared to stand up to injustice led to a better America for all.

One year ago today Kermit Gosnell was found guilty of murder for killing three babies born alive during illegal late-term abortions. His shameful indifference to the lives of both these victims and the desperate women he claimed to treat shocked the nation. On this first anniversary of Gosnell’s conviction, we are reminded of the work that remains to protect the most innocent and vulnerable among us. 

As an original co-sponsor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act (S.1670), I was disappointed that Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Democrats blocked today’s attempt to bring this compassionate and reasonable legislation to the floor for a vote. 

S.1670 would protect unborn babies beginning at 20 weeks – more than halfway through pregnancy – when science reveals that they can feel excruciating pain.

The dignity of each and every human life is fundamental. And deep disagreements exist among our people about abortion, surely we should aspire to be a nation where we protect unborn babies who can feel pain, respond to touch, and recognize their mothers’ voices.

This legislation is sound policy and widely supported by the public. Yet sadly, this is a policy on which the United States lags far behind the rest of the world. According to a recent study released by the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the United States is one of only seven countries that allow elective abortion past 20 weeks, joining, among others, China and North Korea. This is a tragedy that cannot stand.

I am proud to be joining Senator Lindsey Graham and 39 of my colleagues in the Senate in strongly supporting the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. I hope the Majority Leader will reconsider and allow this legislation to be considered on the floor.