Fighting for Florida

On this final day of February and Black History Month, I had the privilege of gathering with presidents of America’s historically black colleges and universities, who were in Washington for a gathering hosted by my good friend, Senator Tim Scott (R-SC).

We discussed the necessity of a high quality education in order to succeed in the 21st century, as well as the importance of making sure a college degree does not require students to take on insurmountable amounts of debt. Since the 1800s, historically black colleges and universities have played a central role in helping young African-Americans realize their dreams. “I’m the first in my family to graduate from college,” is something graduates from every university and college in America can say; but when you hear it from graduates of historically black colleges and universities, it comes up with a unique sense of pride given the challenges these institutions have overcome in the past.

In Florida, we are the proud home of Florida A&M, Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial University.

As Black History Month comes to an end, it’s important to recognize the historic role of these colleges and universities in our country’s history, as well as the countless contributions African-Americans have made to our great nation. The strength, courage, resilience and faith of many not only helped them gain equal rights under the law, but helped us move closer to becoming the nation we were founded to be. As I walk to and from the U.S. House of Representatives chamber tonight for the president’s address to Congress, I will be reminded of this yet again when I walk through Statuary Hall and pass by the statue of a seated Rosa Parks, whose quiet act of resistance spoke volumes and changed the world.

As Florida’s senator, this month has also served as a reminder of how African-Americans have influenced Florida’s vitality, culture, and history.

Pivotal moments of the civil rights movement unfolded in St. Augustine, America’s first city. These events helped pave a path to equality in our communities and government. Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King and hundreds of others resisted Jim Crow policies in the city’s streets, eventually grabbing the attention of the nation and President Lyndon Johnson, and helping convince him to push for passage of the landmark Civil Rights Act.

African-Americans in Florida and across our nation will continue to play a crucial role in our continued progress. America is a land of rich diversity that has been shaped by the many unique heritages and customs of our people. Our nation has witnessed the American Dream come alive through the economic, artistic, and public service contributions African-Americans have made to our society. I am honored to stand with African-Americans across the nation as this celebratory month comes to a close.

Senator Rubio returned to Miami yesterday evening following an official visit to Germany and France to continue his oversight duties on the Senate’s intelligence, foreign relations and appropriations committees. Due to last Friday’s extended Senate business and intelligence committee briefing, Senator Rubio canceled his original plans to attend the Munich Security Conference and instead went to Germany and France on a separate trip authorized through the intelligence committee. Senator Rubio was joined by Mrs. Rubio, as well as other members of Congress.

On Monday in Germany, he received a country briefing at the U.S. embassy and met with American foreign service officers and intelligence officials stationed in Berlin. He also met with German officials, including Ursula von der Leyen, Defense Minister; Dr. Christoph Heusgen, National Security Advisor and Head of Foreign Relations, Global Affairs, and External Security; and Markus Erderer, State Secretary.

On Tuesday in France, he received a country briefing at the ambassador’s residence and met with American intelligence officials and foreign service officers stationed in Paris. 

The purpose of the trip was to discuss with our European allies and American officials on the ground the future of the U.S./EU relationship, NATO operations, counter-ISIL activities, foreign assistance programs and Russian aggression, including meddling in foreign elections. Senator Rubio reiterated his commitment to the transatlantic alliance and efforts to strengthen U.S.-European relations.

Today, I held a roundtable at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami to discuss the opioid crisis plaguing Florida. Participants included members of the Miami-Dade Police Department, Florida Department of Children and Families, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and others.

I’m grateful for the work these community leaders are doing in the struggle against this epidemic plaguing Florida, and it was good to hear directly from them. We discussed the supply of opioids on our streets, the spike in the price of narcan, the drug used to treat overdoses, the impacts of fentanyl and carfentanil, and the lack of resources for treating those addicted to these drugs. We also talked about how important it is for assistance providers to improve coordination so that smart and timely decisions are made regarding treatment.

The federal government has an important role to play in combatting the opioid crisis – including fully funding CARA, passing the STOP Act in this Congress, and aggressive cooperation with our allies abroad to stop its international trafficking. It is also important that state and federal officials work together to determine the most efficient way to combat this crisis. The heroin epidemic has increasingly become a part of everyday life in Florida communities, endangering loved ones, causing vast suffering and heartache, and far too many funerals for people we know. This disease can touch just about anyone, and we must all work together to fight this epidemic.

Photos below courtesy of the office of Senator Marco Rubio.

 

 

Background on Senator Rubio’s efforts to address the heroin and opioid epidemic in Florida:

  • February 14, 2017 - Rubio introduced the Synthetics Trafficking & Overdose Prevention (STOP) Act, legislation that would restrict the flow of fentanyl into country via the U.S. Postal Service. Unlike UPS or FedEx, the U.S. Postal Service does not currently require advance electronic customs data for the vast majority of incoming international mail.
  • October 25, 2016 – Rubio published an op-ed in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune on the heroin epidemic:
  • September 13, 2016 - Rubio called on the Senate to fund the fight against the heroin and fentanyl epidemic in Florida.
  • July 13, 2016 - Rubio applauded the Senate’s vote to move forward on passing the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA). Rubio cosponsored the legislation, which is aimed at addressing the national epidemic of prescription opioid drug abuse and heroin use.
  • February 8, 2016 - Rubio backed legislation to combat drug addiction and support recovery.

Senator Rubio: These are the continuing rules of the Senate that have been in existence previous to this time and have carried over into this session, is that correct?

Presiding Officer: The senator is correct.

Rubio: And the reason I ask that, Mr. President, is the following. Look, I think we all feel very passionate about the issues before us. I have not been here as long as Senator Leahy whose service here is quite distinguished and a long period of time and I truly do understand the passions people bring to this body. I’d like to think that I too am passionate about the issues before us and I think this is an important moment.

It’s late. I doubt very many people are paying attention. I wish they would though because I think what is a question here is perhaps one of the reasons I ran for this body to begin with. And maybe it’s because of my background and where I am surrounded by people that have lost freedoms in places where they are not allowed to speak. One of the great traditions of our nation is the ability to come forward and have debates. But the founders and the framers and those who established this institution and guided it for over two centuries understood that that debate was impossible if in fact matters became of a personal nature. And let me begin by saying that I don’t believe that that was necessarily the intention here, although that was perhaps the way it turned out. But I think it’s important for us to understand why it matters so much.

I want people to think about our politics here today in America because I am telling you guys I don’t know of a single nation in the history of the world that has been able to solve its problems when half the people in a country absolutely hate the other half of people in that country. This is the most important country in the world. And this body cannot function if people are offending one another, and that’s why those rules are in place.

I was not here with Secretary Clinton was nominated as a member of this body at the time. But I can tell you I am just barely old enough to know that some very nasty things have been written and said about Secretary Clinton. And I think the Senate should be very proud that during her nomination to be secretary of state, despite the fact that I imagine many people were not excited about the fact that she would be secretary of state, to my recollection, and perhaps I’m incorrect, not a single one of those horrible things that have been written said about her, some of which actually did accuse her of wrongdoing, were ever uttered on the floor of the Senate.

I happen to remember in 2004 when then-Senator Kerry ran for president. Some pretty strong things were written, said about him. I was here for that vote when he was nominated and confirmed to be secretary of state. And I don’t recall a single statement being written into the record about the things that have been said about him.

And I want everybody to understand at the end of the night, this is not a partisan issue. It really is not. I can tell you this with full confidence, if one of my colleagues on this side of the aisle had done that, I would like to think that I would have been one of the people objecting, and here's why…

Turn on the news and watch these parliaments around the world where people throw chairs at each other, and punches, and ask yourself how does that make you feel about those countries? It doesn't give you a lot of confidence about those countries. Now I’m not arguing that we're anywhere near that here tonight, but we're flirting with it. We're flirting with it in this body and we are flirting with it in this country. We have become a society incapable of having debates anymore.

In this country, if you watch the big policy debates that are going on in America, no one ever stops to say, “I think you're wrong, I understand your point of view - I get it. You have some valid points, but let me tell you why I think my view is better.” I don't hear that anymore. Here’s what I hear, almost automatically, and let me be fair, from both sides of these debates. Immediately, immediately, as soon as you offer an idea, the other side jumps and says, “The reason why you say that is because you say you don't care about poor people, because you only care about rich people, because you're this, or you’re that or you’re the other.” And I'm just telling you guys, we are reaching a point in this Republic where we're not going to be able to solve the simplest of issues because everyone is putting themselves in a corner where everyone hates everybody.

Now I don’t pretend to say that I am not, myself from time to time in heated debates outside this forum, been guilty of perhaps of hyperbole and for those I am not proud of. But I have to tell you I think what’s at stake here tonight and as we debate going forward is not simply some rule but the ability of the most important nation on earth to debate, in a productive and respectful way, the pressing issues before us. And I just hope we understand that because I have tremendous respect for the other chamber and I understand that it was designed to be different.

But one of the reasons why I chose to run for the Senate, and quite frankly to run for reelection, is because I believe I serve with 99 other men and women who deeply love their country, who have different points of view, who represent men and women who have different views from the men and women I may represent on a given issue, and who are here to advocate for their points of view, and never impugning their motives.

One of the great things I take pride in and I tell this to people all the time, is the one thing you learn about the Senate is whether you agree with them or not, you understand why every single one of those other 99 people are here. Because they are intelligent people, they are smart people, they are hardworking people, they believe in what they are saying, and they articulate it in a very passionate and effective way. And I understand when I see my colleagues stand up and say something I don’t agree with, I try to tell myself, “Look I don’t understand why they stand for that but I know why they are doing it; because they represent people who believe that.”

And I am so grateful that God has allowed me to be born and to live and to raise my family in a nation where people with such different points of view are able to debate those things in a way that doesn’t lead to war, that doesn’t lead to overthrows, that doesn’t lead to violence. You may take that for granted. I’m telling you that right now, all around the world tonight, there are people that if they stood up here and said the things that we say about the president or others in authority, you go to jail. Now I am not saying that’s where we are headed as a nation. I’m just saying don’t ever take that for granted. And the lynchpin of that is this institution. The lynchpin of that debate is the ability of this institution, through unlimited debate and the decorum necessary for that debate,  to be able to conduct itself in that manner.

And so, I know that tonight is probably a made-for-TV moment for some people. This has nothing to do with censoring the words of some great heroes. I have extraordinary admiration for the men and women who led the civil rights effort in this country.  I am self-conscious enough and understanding to know that many of the things that have been possible for so many people in this country  in the 21st century were made possible by the sacrifices and the work of those in that movement that came before us. This has to do with the fundamental reality and that is this body cannot carry out its work if it is not able to conduct debates in a way that is respectful of one another, especially those of us who are in this chamber together. And I also understand this, that if the Senate ceases to work, if we reach a point where this institution, given everything else that is going on in politics today where you are basically allowed to say just about anything. For I have seen over the last year and half things said about people, about issues, about institutions in our republic, that I would never thought I would see. Ever. Ever.

If we lose this body’s ability to conduct debate in a dignified manner, and I mean this with no disrespect towards anyone else - I don’t believe anyone else came on this floor here tonight saying, “I am going to be disrespectful on purpose and turn this into a circus.” But I am just telling you that if this body loses the ability to have those sorts of debate, then where in this country is that going to happen? What other forum in this nation is that going to be possible?

And so, I would just hope that everybody would stop and think about that. I know I have only been here six years so I don’t have a deep reservoir of Senate history to rely on. But I know this: if this body is incapable of having those debates, there will be no place in this country where those debates can occur. I think every single one of us, to our great shame, will live to regret it.

Mr. President, I yield the floor. 

Yesterday, Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Sand Acquisition, Nourishment and Development (SAND) Act (S. 279), bipartisan legislation aimed at making it easier to replenish Florida’s eroded beaches. This bill will modernize federal law to give the Army Corps of Engineers greater flexibility in acquiring the sand Florida beaches so desperately need. County leaders in South Florida are applauding Rubio for his effort to protect Florida’s infrastructure and environment:

“This legislation is a step in the right direction to ensure that Miami-Dade’s beaches remain viable for tourism and beauty while protecting our infrastructure from erosion in a more cost-effective manner,” said Carlos Gimenez, Mayor of Miami-Dade County.

“Indian River County applauds Senator Rubio and his effort to provide local communities the option to use non-domestic sand sources for beach nourishment projects that receive federal funding. This Legislation will benefit Indian River County as well as the entire State of Florida,” said Joseph Flescher, Chairman of the Indian River County Board of County Commissioners.

“On behalf of St. Lucie County we appreciate the interest of Senator Rubio in trying to address our sand resource concerns through the introduction of this legislation.  To be provided the option to explore other offshore sand resources is greatly appreciated.  These issues are critical to our future beach renourishment efforts,” said Frannie Hutchinson, St. Lucie County Commissioner and Chair of the Erosion Control Board.

“I applaud our south Florida legislators for their bi-partisan effort to introduce bills in the House and Senate on issues related to sand sources for beach projects off our shores.  We strongly support this effort and are hopeful that we can continue to work with our industry partners on common ground as we move towards a mutually beneficial solution on beach renourishment projects,” said Doug Smith, Chairman of the Martin County Board of County Commissioners.

“Thank you for your continued efforts to allow the US Army Corps of Engineers to explore the possibility of using non-domestic sand during federal beach renourishment projects. Further support for this issue will likely offer cost savings to the federal government and Broward County,” said Chip LaMarca, Broward County Commissioner.

PARTIAL TRANSCRIPT
 
The second is the Supreme Court nomination, I believe, is an extraordinary educational opportunity for our country, and I find it disturbing that by and large, today, in America, there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the role of the Supreme Court. I hear people come up to me and say, "Well, we want someone that's compassionate," and I like compassionate people. "We want someone that's open-minded," and I like that too in people, and those are not bad attributes to have as a human being. They're actually pretty good attributes to have as a policymaker, and they certainly aren't things that would disqualify you from being on the Supreme Court, but quite frankly, they're not the job of the Supreme Court Justice.
 
And so when people think that we're appointing people because of the things they believe in, the most important thing they need to believe in is not a specific public policy outcome. It has to be whether they truly understand that their job is not to be a trier of fact, but a trier of the law, to look at the case before them, and reach a conclusion about whether or not the government, in many cases that's the government being challenged, has the power to do what they did, and that's why Justice Scalia, from time to time, would reach these conclusions that ran counter to probably what his personal beliefs were, because Justice Scalia understood that that wasn't his job. He may disagree with the outcome, but he was prepared to say that it was wrong.
 
It's why I've always said to people when they talk about executive orders, "Look, I'm in favor of reducing the tax burden in America, but if tomorrow the President signs an executive order saying, 'I order the IRS to only collect 25 percent, even though the legislative language says 35%,' I agree with the policy outcome, but I would oppose the executive action because it undermines the separation of power, the constitutional duties assigned to each office," and that's the kind of justices we need. And so this is an important opportunity for us to really educate the American people about the proper role of the Court, and there's this sense out there that the Court are basically this panel of super-legislators designed to supervise and clean up whatever mistakes are made at the policy realm by the President or by the Congress, and we really need to correct that, or we're going to wind up in a very bad place as a country, where the Constitution becomes a bunch of words on an ancient document that no longer have any meaning in our daily lives.
 
And I think that really begins by explaining to people the importance of the Constitution in and of itself, because oftentimes, we talk about how important the Constitution is in the same way that we tell people it's good to eat broccoli. "It's good for you, it's a good thing," but we don't explain why it's a good thing. The purpose of the Constitution is not to empower government, but to limit its power, because it was written and designed by people who had had a pretty bad experience with centralized government. They came to the conclusion, rightfully so, that all human beings are deeply flawed, and that given enough power, those flaws will turn into abuses, tyranny, or really bad ideas, and so they were very distrustful of governmental power.
 

 
And if you look at where America stands today, the consolidation of governmental power has had a devastating impact on every aspect of our lives, and it really tracks right back to the loss of federalism, hence the name of this organization, The Federalist Society. I don't think this country has ever needed it more than it needs today, because while we are still a country and we are united by some basic principles that should unite us, the great challenge of America is, we've never been a nation founded on a common ethnicity or a common race, common religion, even a common background in terms of our ancestry. What's kind of united us as a nation is a commitment to an idea, the notion that all people have a God-given right to life, to liberty, and to pursue happiness. That's a very powerful idea, and, by the way, a very revolutionary one, because up until about 200-some-odd years ago, that notion didn't exist.

Today we honor a man who dedicated his life to the advancement of civil rights in our nation. Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy has inspired generations of Americans, and I’m proud the American people come together today in his honor.

As we reflect upon the positive change Dr. King’s work brought to bear in our society, we also remember a shameful era of widespread, systemic discrimination and inequality. Through peaceful, constructive protests and speeches, Dr. King implored our country to realize the full potential of a core American ideal: that all of us are created equal by God and endowed with inalienable rights. The movement he led was rooted in faith and moral clarity, and advanced by Americans who had the courage to stand in solidarity with him, even if it meant physical threats, injuries, and sadly, sometimes death.

Our nation has come a long way since Dr. King’s life was taken. This week we are reminded of just how true that is as our nation’s first African-American president leaves office, and no doubt others will come as our nation’s future unfolds. Even with this progress, in recent years we’ve seen tragic events in our communities result in further anguish and division among Americans. Dr. King’s legacy, however, teaches us that we can turn even the most painful forms of hatred into catalysts for forgiveness, love, and progress. Through Dr. King’s powerful words and the example he set with his life, we have a vision of unity and brotherhood that we must continue to pursue today, so that the America Dream becomes attainable for more people of all races than ever before.‎

On this day of service and remembrance, we honor and renew Dr. King’s calls of equal opportunity and justice, so that his indelible words are forever ingrained in the spirit of America.

Washington, D.C. El Senador Marco Rubio hoy emitió el siguiente mensaje para el Día de los Reyes Magos:

“Hoy nos unimos a nuestros amigos, vecinos cristianos, y seres queridos de la Florida y alrededor del mundo en la celebración de la Epifanía, o el Día de los Tres Reyes Magos.  La Biblia dice que los Tres Reyes siguieron la estrella brillante de Belén por doce días y encontraron al Niño Jesús en un pesebre y le obsequiaron regalos de oro, incienso y mirra.  Desde entonces, la Epifanía ha sido un día para conmemorar la manifestación de Jesucristo al mundo, a través de la llegada de los Reyes Magos.

“Hoy también es una oportunidad para reflexionar sobre los orígenes de nuestra fe y nuestro deseo de seguir los pasos de Cristo en nuestras propias vidas.  No importa dónde esté celebrando esta fecha, si es en la iglesia, en un desfile, o con una simple oración, le deseamos una Epifanía bendita.  Feliz Día de los Reyes”.

Today is the 225th anniversary of a historic and pivotal moment for America. On December 15, 1791, the Bill of Rights was ratified and became part of the U.S. Constitution. For over two centuries, the Bill of Rights has helped promote the stability and prosperity of our nation.

As America’s torch of liberty shines throughout the globe, the Bill of Rights is a reminder that our nation is exceptional. Over 225 years ago, the Founding Fathers set in motion a great experiment in democracy. They could not possibly know all of the potential consequences of their courage, or whether future generations would ultimately enjoy the fruits of the liberty they secured. But they did their best to ensure a more perfect union, and when they disagreed on how to do it, they crafted these pivotal amendments and reached a historic and lasting compromise.   

The Bill of Rights is not just a document we read about in our textbooks– it has tangible and direct impacts on the lives of all Americans. It has served as a vanguard of the Preamble’s mission to “establish justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Poserity.”

When I was sworn into office as a U.S. Senator and placed my hand on the Bible, I promised to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Unfortunately, too many in Washington have deviated from their oaths to protect it. Unelected bureaucrats and out-of-touch politicians have infringed on the Constitution by dramatically expanding the size and scope of the federal government far beyond the vision of the Founding Fathers. Some have even sought to roll back parts of the Bill of Rights they don’t like.

As we celebrate the 225th anniversary of the Bill of Rights, let us be thankful for the opportunities the Constitution has afforded us, and remember that our cherished freedoms came at a terribly high price. At times when our very existence was threatened by war at home and abroad, blood was shed and lives were lost. Around the world, millions have suffered and continue to suffer under the yoke of tyranny and oppression, as they fight to have the same liberties we often take for granted.  

Today, Human Rights Day, we celebrate the God-given rights of every individual, and remember that millions of people around the world are still denied their fundamental rights to live peacefully with freedom and dignity.

That is why the United States must continue to champion human rights in all corners of the globe. Unfortunately, our country has shamefully looked the other way when it comes to human rights violators like Cuba, China, and Saudi Arabia. We’ve also done too little to alleviate the suffering of the Syrian people, who have endured years of violence under the brutal Assad regime backed by two other serial human rights abusers, Russia and Iran.

Instead of standing with the Cuban people against their oppressors, President Obama has showered the totalitarian Castro regime with endless one-sided concessions. I will continue to support Cuba’s political prisoners, dissidents and democracy advocates struggling to realize their human rights.

Chinese dissident and writer Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize six years ago “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” Today, instead of holding this prestigious honor, he rots in jail under a harsh sentence—solely for criticizing his own government.

In Saudi Arabia, Raif Badawi similarly languishes in prison, awaiting flogging simply because he encouraged political and religious debate.

These are just some of the faces of those fighting for the basic rights and freedoms we enjoy here in America. Our country must be a voice for the voiceless, and these heroes need our support. On this Human Rights Day, let us renew our commitment to championing their cause.