Fighting for Florida

Today we commemorate International Human Rights Day. It’s a day to be thankful for our God-given rights but also to remember that there are millions of people around the world who are denied their most basic human rights every day. This includes Saeed Abedini, an Iranian-American pastor who has been imprisoned in Iran since September 2012 for being a Christian. Unfortunately the story of Pastor Abedini is an all too common occurrence around the world where governments frequently harass and unjustly imprison foreign nationals as well as their own citizens for their religious beliefs. 

One of the most egregious violations of human rights occurring across the globe and even in my home state of Florida is human trafficking. Just this past week, 61 people were charged with human trafficking in a sting operation in Polk County. I applaud the work of law enforcement that caught these perpetrators of modern day slavery and pray for the victims of this horrendous crime.  We, however, must remain vigilant and continue to work to combat this terrible crime which plagues our society.

Today we honor Saeed Abedini, and all other prisoners of consciences who are struggling to exercise their human rights, as well as the millions of people who are trapped in modern day slavery.

Dec 01 2014

World AIDS Day

As we mark World AIDS Day, we are reminded that more than 35 million people around the world are living with HIV or AIDS. This is a disease that does not discriminate. It impacts the lives of people on all continents, of all races, and from all socioeconomic backgrounds.

However, today is also a reminder of the progress we've made in combatting this vicious disease. Due to advances in medical science over recent years, as well as the humanitarian commitment of the American people, there are millions of people receiving HIV medications and living longer, more productive lives that would otherwise be without hope.

Americans should feel proud of what we have achieved in combatting AIDS. Great credit goes to President George W. Bush for establishing the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and Congress for continuing to fund it. But the battle is not finished. We’ve seen infection rates climb in recent years among certain demographics, including minority communities and young women.

Our goal in the 21st century is to have an AIDS-free generation.  To achieve this goal, we need to maintain a spirit of generosity and compassion, both as a nation and as individuals. With our personal efforts and with continued medical ingenuity, I believe we'll live to see AIDS eradicated from the face of the earth.

On the evening of Monday, November 17, 2014, the Senate passed S. 1086, a bill reauthorizing the Child Care and Development Block Grant Program (CCDBG).

This bill reauthorizes and amends the CCDBG Act with new requirements for state health and safety standards, including annual, unannounced onsite monitoring of licensed providers, background checks of child care staff and providers, expanded compliance with child abuse reporting requirements, and enhanced coordination with other programs.

On March 13, 2014, the Senate passed an earlier version of S. 1086, and I voted yes.

Due to a flight delay, I was unable to cast a vote yesterday on its final passage. I would have voted yes.

Oct 03 2014

Yom Kippur

This Friday, as the sun sets, the Jewish community will join together to observe the holiest day of the year in the Jewish faith, Yom Kippur. As Jews around the world partake in deep prayer and repentance on this Day of Atonement, it is my prayer that their journey toward spiritual renewal be a blessed and holy one. While this day is a solemn one, we pray it brings them the reprieve of acceptance and forgiveness, and the joys of family and fellowship.

This day serves as a reminder to us all, regardless of faith or denomination, of our many shared values. It is a reminder of the universal desire to overcome our shortcomings and partake in a noble journey toward self-improvement and self-awareness. Today, may Americans everywhere call to mind the values our nation holds dear – including our commitment to family and faith, as well as the freedom to celebrate both.

On this High Holiday, we pray especially for our friends in Israel as they continue to face great challenges. May this day be met with lasting peace in the Jewish state, and let it remind us of our commitment to protect and defend our allies there.

I wish the Jewish community peace and blessings this Yom Kippur, and may this sacred day seal a promise for a year of health and happiness for all.

Sep 24 2014

Rosh Hashanah

Rosh Hashanah, the celebration of the Jewish New Year, is a time of reflection and new beginnings for the Jewish community. We wish the Jewish people in the U.S., Israel and throughout the world a day of many blessings and peace as they celebrate this High Holiday.
 
Let us also recognize the profound influence that Judeo-Christian values have had on shaping this great nation and how they are among the many reasons we are so closely linked to Israel. Although this past year has brought tragedy and many great challenges to Israel, it also reminded us of why the Jewish state remains a friend of the U.S. like no other - one we must continue to defend and protect.

In this time of prayer and reflection, we wish all members of the Jewish community a happy and healthy new year. May this celebration bring with it lasting peace and prosperity.
 
Shanah Tovah U’metukah.

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.