Fighting for Florida

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.

Happy Mother's Day

May 11 2014

In honor of Mother’s Day, I’d like to thank all the mothers in Florida, across the nation and serving overseas for their hard work and sacrifices to give our children a chance at a better future. A mother’s duties do not end at five o’clock. She does not receive a paycheck for her time, nor get holidays off. A mother’s job is constant. But in return, her compensation is found in the love of her family and the happiness of her children.

It takes a special person to be a mother — selflessly putting the needs of her children before her own, unconditionally supporting and loving them, and oftentimes serving as the voice of reason — because let’s face it, mothers really do know best.

Growing up, my mom taught me many lessons in life, and she continues to do so today. She taught me that my potential was unlimited, and that through hard work and an education I could achieve whatever I wanted to — including my own version of the American Dream. She taught me the values of family, tradition and kindness. And I am blessed to see my wife instilling those same qualities in our four children.

I would especially like to wish a happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers serving overseas. We thank you for your selfless service to both your country and your children, and we appreciate your sacrifice. We also celebrate military moms, the wives of service men keeping their military families together, and the moms of our service members whose sons and daughters risk their lives so that we can continue to live freely and safely. Your strength is inspiring to us all, and I wish you a peaceful and fulfilling day.

While we set aside one day each year to honor our mothers, we must remember to thank them not just today, but every day. From first steps and first days of school, to graduation days and wedding days, their love has guided us to life’s many celebrations and through its many obstacles. In return, we aim to be the sons and daughters they worked so hard to raise, using the values they have instilled in us to navigate life.

To all the mothers whose love has resulted in generations of men and women filled with principle and promise, Happy Mother’s Day.

During today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing discussing the ongoing political crisis in Venezuela, Senator Rubio argued for the need to impose sanctions on the following 23 individuals he says are responsible for human rights violations in the country:

Name

Position

Organization

Aref Eduardo Richany Jiménez

General Director

Directorate of Armaments and Explosives (DAEX)

Julio César Morales Prieto

General Director

Directorate of Armaments and Explosives (DAEX)

Hugo Carvajal

Director

Directorate of Military Intelligence

Iván Hernández Dala

Director

General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence

Luisa Ortega Diaz

General Prosecutor

Office of the General Prosecutor

Luis Alberto Arrayago Coronel

Chief of the Regional Command Number 8

National Bolivarian Armed Forces

Miguel Vivas Landino

Chief Strategic Region of Integral Defense of the Andes

National Bolivarian Armed Forces

Francisco Rangel Gómez

Governor

Governorship Bolívar State

Alexis Ramírez

Governor

Governorship Mérida State

Jose Gregorio Vielma Mora

Governor

Governorship Táchira State

Henry Rangel Silva

Governor

Governorship Trujillo State

Aquíles Rojas Patiño

Commander of the "Guardia del Pueblo" Regiment

Bolivarian National Guard

Justo Jose Noguera Pietri

Commander General

Bolivarian National Guard

Sergio Rivero Marcano

National Commander, Guardia del Pueblo

Bolivarian National Guard

Antonio Benavides Torres

Director of Operations

Bolivarian National Guard

Franklin Garcia Duque

Chief of the Regional Command Number 1

Bolivarian National Guard

Arquímedes Herrera Ruso

Chief of the Regional Command Number 2

Bolivarian National Guard

Manuel José Graterol Colmenarez

Chief of the Regional Command Number 3

Bolivarian National Guard

Octavio Chacón

Chief of the Regional Command Number 4

Bolivarian National Guard

Manuel Quevedo

Chief of the Regional Command Number 5

Bolivarian National Guard

Gustavo Colmenares

Chief of the Operative Zone of Integral Defense

Venezuelan Navy

Miguel Rodriguez Torres

Minister

Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace

Marcos Rojas Figueroa

Vice Minister of the Integral Police System

Ministry of Interior, Justice, and Peace

Hebert Garcia Plaza

Vice Minister of Services

Ministry of Defense

Manuel Eduardo Pérez Urdaneta

Director

Bolivarian National Police

Gustavo Enrique González López

Director General

Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia (SEBIN) (Intelligence Services)

Manuel Gregorio Bernal Martínez

Director General - removed on Feb 18

Servicio Bolivariano de Inteligencia (SEBIN) (intelligence Services)

 

Today I cosponsored Senate Resolution 225, a resolution calling for the establishment of a joint select committee to investigate the September 11, 2012 terrorist attacks against the U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya. A year and a half after these attacks, despite a limited number of public hearings, too many questions remain regarding what the Obama administration knew during the attacks and their response. As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the lack of oversight by the committee of the State Department’s response to the attacks is unacceptable. Even after the completion of the Accountability Review Board, it is unclear how many of their recommendations have been implemented despite promises by Secretaries Clinton and Kerry that all of the ARB recommendations would be adopted. Further, the SFRC has not even attempted to conduct a thorough investigation into these terrorist attacks that took the lives of four brave Americans. At this late date, there has not been a single person at the State Department held accountable for their failure to properly secure the diplomatic facility in Benghazi despite a mountain of intelligence highlighting the threat and foreshadowing the risk of terrorist attack. I hope that Senate Democrats will follow the lead of Speaker Boehner and establish a joint select committee to study the Benghazi attacks without delay. We owe it to the families of those who died and to all Americans serving in difficult posts overseas.  

This week, communities across the country are coming together to celebrate National Charter Schools Week. We celebrate the many successes and achievements of charter schools, honoring the value of a quality education and its undeniable, profound effect on our children’s future.

As we are faced with new economic challenges in the 21st century, quality education is key to achieving the American Dream. During a time when parents are struggling to financially provide for the education their children deserve, charter schools have become a welcome and much-needed option for millions of our youth, while also empowering parents with more school choice. They ensure access to the kind of education our children need to thrive, and the kind of high quality education that many across the country would otherwise be left without.

Charter schools are grounded in the American values of innovation and efficiency, fostering educational opportunity. With over 6,500 of these schools in America, more than 2.5 million students are receiving quality education. And in 2013, the number of Florida charter schools has grown to over 570, with enrollment topping 200,000 students.

I remain deeply committed to building a strong middle class, and charter schools help advance this goal through innovative learning techniques and an accountable, transparent education system that equips our children with the tools needed to succeed.

Our children are the foundation of America, and education is the core of their success. This week, we celebrate the strides charter schools continue to make and we remain dedicated to ensuring access to the quality education that will help usher in a new generation prepared to make America’s future even brighter than its past.

One of the key things our people need in order to achieve the American Dream is the ability to live in stable and secure homes and communities. The Second Amendment helps make this possible by protecting our citizens' right to bear arms.

I'm disappointed the U.S. Supreme Court declined to consider Drake v. Jerejiam, an important case with significant implications for Americans' Second Amendment rights. By declining to hear the case, an earlier appellate court decision now essentially upholds a New Jersey law that requires individuals to demonstrate a "justifiable need" to carry a firearm outside one's home in order to obtain a concealed carry permit.

Just think about this for a moment. Part of owning a firearm for self-defense is to be prepared in case, God forbid, your life or your family's life is ever threatened, and the "justifiable need" to use it arises. That's why a justifiable need can't be a precondition to lawfully own a firearm and be able to carry conceal. It's not only unconstitutional in my opinion, it also endangers honest, law-abiding Americans who simply want to be safe.

This is a dangerous precedent and attack against the Second Amendment rights of New Jersey's residents that could have broader implications throughout the country. It's a reminder that we must remain vigilant in our defense of the Second Amendment, not just when it comes to legislation but especially with stopping activist judges from sitting on the bench.

On this case, the courts have failed to protect against a legislative overreach against the Second Amendment, but I'm hopeful that other states will not follow suit.

In a country where we are free to express ourselves and our thoughts — where good ideas are rewarded, troubling facts exposed, and differing opinions celebrated and reconciled — we must remember that this fundamental right is not ensured to all. World Press Freedom Day is not only a day to celebrate such liberties, it is a reminder that our efforts to raise awareness of international press freedom are far from over.

Freedom of the press is a fundamental part of any thriving democracy. Ensuring the free flow of information and access to uncensored information must be a key pillar of America’s global human rights agenda. People, societies, economies and entire nations benefit when constructive criticism is encouraged as a means to achieve progress. Yet despite technological advances of the 21st century that make communication and expression easier than ever, there are many who remain bound to repressive and overreaching governments that limit such rights.

As the son of Cuban exiles, I understand the harsh realities of a country that does not allow its citizens access to a free media, censoring what they read and, ultimately, what they think. These nations are left in the dark, a world of knowledge and opportunity lost at the hands of ignorance and fear. A government that denies a free press only chains its people to a false sense of security.

According to Freedom House, global press freedom fell to its lowest level in over a decade last year. Cuba remains the most oppressive in the Americas, while China continues to be the home of the world’s most sophisticated censorship apparatus, increasing its pressure against foreign media by threatening or denying visas for members of the foreign press corps.  

And as the Maduro regime continues to respond to peaceful demonstrations with violent oppression on the streets of Venezuela, it has become increasingly clear that America must stand always on the side of freedom and democracy, supporting the efforts of those who risk their lives to speak out and demand such rights.

Today is also a day to celebrate journalistic integrity as we recognize journalists for the essential role they play in promoting government accountability, defending democratic activity and strengthening civil society. We also commemorate the many journalists who have lost their lives carrying out their noble work.

Today, we call for a vibrant and active free press, as we work to leave behind a world for our children and grandchildren where all are free to read and write and speak as they please — a world that embraces a free press, and with it, free minds.

The Boston Marathon

Apr 21 2014

In the past year, millions of Americans have competed in endurance events of varying distances and disciplines. I have always admired those who compete in endurance events. Today, as 36,000 runners take off from the starting line at the Boston Marathon, all Americans unite to support them as they remind us of our strength, courage and resilience as a people.

The terrorist attack on last year’s Boston Marathon shocked our nation and the world. Three spectators lost their lives and 264 spectators and runners were injured. The hours and days following the attacks were filled with heroic actions by first responders who risked their lives to help victims of the blasts and law enforcement officials who led the search for those responsible and began the process of bringing the surviving terrorist to justice. One campus police officer at MIT, Sean Collier, was killed by the bombers as they tried to flee justice. The first responders’ bravery and courage in the face of immediate danger and uncertainty inspired us all.

The inspiration from Boston continues today. For the families of those who lost loved ones and for the survivors who have suffered life changing injuries, this past year has been filled with unimaginable pain and difficulty, and yet, in true American form, it has also been filled with stories of survivors overcoming adversity. The strength of the survivors and the victims’ families has reminded us of our resilience as nation and inspired us as a people to stand together.

Today, the city of Boston and endurance athletes from across America, including over 900 Floridians, are uniting to show that last year’s attack will not deter them. This year, the Boston Marathon’s organizers wisely increased the number of registrations, not only to meet the demand of people who wanted to race this year and prove that Americans will not be deterred. But a special exception was also made to this year’s number of runners to accommodate a large group of special runners: those who were prevented from finishing last year, first responders, elite and legacy runners, and families of victims. This Boston Marathon will be unlike any other in its rich history.

To all those running today, thank you for being an example of American resolve. As you cross the finish line today, know that you inspire us all to be Boston Strong.

Best of luck to all the runners. May God bless them and all those affected by last year’s tragedy.

Today, we mark the 53rd anniversary of the Brigade 2506’s efforts to liberate Cuba from the clutches of a communist dictatorship that had just taken hold at the time. The men that formed the Brigade represented a cross section of the Cuban population. They were rich and poor, of African and European descent and politically diverse, but all of them were united by their belief in democracy and freedom. Even after all these years, their proud legacy lives and stands as a symbol to all those who yearn and struggle to be free.

Sadly, Cuba continues to suffer at the hands of a dictatorship that has enslaved millions of innocent people and ravaged Cuba’s natural resources to help entrench them in power. There hasn’t been a free and fair election in Cuba in 54 years. The independent press there is non-existent. Cubans can’t freely access the Internet. And the systematic violation of human rights by the Castro regime has meant more political prisoners in their gulags. Furthermore, during that long stretch of time, the Cuban government has consistently stood against human rights, sponsored terrorism, actively undermined democratically elected governments and institutions, and just last year, was caught violating United Nations sanctions by transferring weapons to North Korea.

These are all the things the men of the Brigade 2506 set out to stop. These are the things they have dedicated their lives to, so that one day Cuba can be free again.

These are reminders of how much was at stake fifty-four years ago, when the brave men of the Brigade fought against overwhelming odds. Today, we pause to honor their sacrifice, and recommit ourselves to the universal right of every man, woman and child to be free – in Cuba and elsewhere around the world.