Fighting for Florida

On this third anniversary of the start of the conflict in Syria, we remember the 140,000 Syrians who have lost their lives, and we pray for those still living through this ongoing nightmare. 

Three years ago this week, the Syrian people took to the streets to demand the ouster of Bashar al-Assad. Those men, women and children demonstrated peacefully against the Assad regime’s brutality. Their demands for accountability and the freedoms others enjoy were met with beatings and bullets. 

Since those early days, the Assad regime has turned to snipers, indiscriminate shelling, barrel bombs, and even chemical weapons in its efforts to destroy the will of the Syrian people and cling to power.

Years ago, when the moderate opposition was appealing for American support, I urged President Obama to weigh in on the side of those who favored freedom to the intolerance and repression of Assad’s rule. Many of us advocated for sanctions and tougher measures against Russian and Iranian entities that are bolstering the regime.

Yet President Obama failed to act. He was hesitant in his support for the moderate secular opposition. Unbelievably, President Obama and Secretary Kerry placed their hope for a solution to the conflict in negotiations that hinged on diplomatic dialogue with “partners” like Vladimir Putin, the Iranian regime and Bashar al-Assad. And, when the Administration did propose military action, they said it would be “unbelievably small” and did not offer a clear strategy for how it would result in Assad being replaced by a moderate, secular government. Further, this military action was not designed to help empower the opposition in our shared goal of seeing Assad go, but was intended to be a retaliatory slap on the wrist for Assad crossing Obama’s “red line.” 

Today, the Syrian people are paying the high costs of this delay, inaction, and lack of focus. 

Millions of Syrians have fled their homes and are now refugees, creating what some have called the greatest humanitarian catastrophe in modern times. An entire “lost generation” of Syrians is growing up without permanent homes, consistent education, or much hope for the future. 

Syria’s neighbors are under strain, with instability spreading as the conflict now enters its fourth year. Meanwhile, Syria’s allies - including Iran, Hezbollah and Russia - have been emboldened by their success in bolstering the Assad regime. Assad is more secure than he has been at any time throughout this sectarian conflict and Syria is now becoming the premier operational area for jihadists in the world, who are already threatening Europe and the United States.

We don’t have the luxury of looking away. We can’t continue to ignore the Syrian people in their time of need. The strategic consequences to U.S. security are too great. 

We need to renew our efforts to identify and work with moderate members of the opposition. I've called for this to be done overtly so we can be clear about who we are supporting and with what capabilities. Additionally, we need to ensure that the growing extremist threat that is spreading across the Levant does not lead to attacks against Europe or the U.S. homeland. We need to immediately impose tough sanctions on Russian and Iranian entities and individuals supporting Assad’s war machine. We need to ensure that our allies in the region have adequate support to deal with the pressures of the conflict next door. Senator Reid can do his part by allowing a vote on a Bill (S960) approved by the Foreign Relations Committee in July 2013, which gives the President additional tools to accomplish these goals.

The President should prepare and submit to Congress a strategy to deal with the humanitarian toll of the conflict, as Senator Tim Kaine and I, along with 17 of our colleagues, recently requested him to do.

It is not certain that these actions will bring an end to the pain and suffering in Syria anytime soon. Because of the administration's delay at every stage of this conflict, our challenge has only become greater. But we cannot give up, both because of our own security interests as well as our values. 

For months, I’ve closely studied the issue of how to address and stop sexual assaults in the military. My office and I have held dozens of formal meetings and calls with active duty service women and men, victims and military leaders, among others. When I’ve crossed paths with service women and men at home in Florida, at airports or during my official travels abroad, I’ve sought their opinions on this matter. I especially appreciate the time Senators Kirsten Gillibrand, Claire McCaskill, Kelly Ayotte and Deb Fischer have spent with me discussing this issue and walking me through the impact their proposals would have.

Sexual assaults in any setting are unacceptable. But sexual assaults in our military bring the additional consequences of endangering our troops, diminishing morale, undermining our national defense, and tarnishing the uniform that so many who have come before have worn with honor.

On this issue, my goal has been to find the best way to prevent sexual assaults in our armed forces, punish those who commit these crimes, and ensure that the discipline and order our military’s chain of command instills is safeguarded – for it is the foundation of the greatest military in the history of the world.

At this time, I believe we need to allow the multiple reforms enacted in the last two National Defense Authorization Acts to be  fully implemented and studied. I also support the proposal by Senators McCaskill, Ayotte and Fischer to build on these earlier reforms and supported their legislation today.  Ultimately, I did not support Sen. Gillibrand’s legislation today because I believe we should allow these other reforms to take root before we significantly alter the chain of command structure and military justice system that governs the way our armed forces operate.

In considering this issue, I thought of all the men and women who serve in harm’s way and in military installations throughout Florida. I thought about the service men and women I’ve met during my official travels abroad. I thought about the young men and women I’ve been privileged to nominate to our service academies and who now attend those prestigious institutions.  I thought about all their parents, who share the universal concern of parents everywhere about their kids’ safety – but experience it on a whole other level given the nature of their sacrifices.

Nothing is more important to me than protecting them and their God-given dignity, and ensuring that our military remains not only an enduring symbol of our strength but also of our national character.

I believe the reforms included in the recent NDAA and those that passed today can effectively punish and deter sexual assault crimes within our military. If these reforms fail to do this, I believe we should revisit this issue.

I voted for the Military Retirement Pay Bill because, while not perfect, it does restore a promise made long ago to millions of veterans and active duty personnel regarding pensions for retirees.  But I think it is really shameful how Senate Democrats keep manipulating veterans to advance their own political goals.  Washington needs to stop the practice of funding benefits and other programs through obscure budgetary gimmicks.

It is unforgivable that instead of focusing on the real drivers of our debt when it comes to spending reductions, Washington chose to take aim at our veterans’ pensions. We need to stop beating around the bush when it comes to our debt and start dealing with saving Medicare and Social Security before they bankrupt themselves and our country.

Today, I voted no on the Agricultural Act of 2014, also known as the Farm Bill.

Florida’s economy and the livelihoods of many family-owned businesses and workers rely on a vibrant agricultural industry. Unfortunately, this farm bill goes far beyond agricultural programs and includes anti-poverty programs and renewable energy programs, among other spending measures that total nearly $1 trillion.

With Washington facing a $17 trillion debt and another debt ceiling increase in a few weeks, this bill does not undertake any fundamental reforms to ensure every taxpayer dollar is being properly spent to secure our nation’s food supply instead of needlessly growing government or continuing the status quo on programs that need reform.

For example, food stamp programs are an important part of our safety net, but we should have a separate debate on these and other anti-poverty programs with the goal of empowering states to better design these programs to help their people escape poverty.

And while energy innovation is an important debate and will be a key economic growth driver in the 21st century, we should be discussing renewable energy and biofuels programs in the context of energy policy, not lumping them in to this bill that’s supposed to be about securing our nation’s food supply.

New York Times: “U.S. Says Russia Tested Missile, Despite Treaty”

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Jim Risch (R-ID) express dismay at today’s revelations on Russian cheating and will continue to press the Obama Administration on the issue.

“Today’s report is an urgent reminder that President Putin is not to be trusted,” said Rubio. “President Obama sought to ‘reset’ relations with Russia, yet in the last 5 years, we’ve only seen Putin weaken democracy in Russia and undermine the independence of Russia’s neighbors. Today’s report is more evidence that it is ludicrous to think that we should negotiate further reductions to the U.S. strategic arsenal given Russia’s noncompliance with its existing commitments. I hope the Administration is more clear-eyed in its future dealings with Putin’s Russia. I will continue to do all possible to ensure that these compliance issues are adequately addressed and that the administration does not take unilateral steps to reduce the U.S. nuclear arsenal.”

“Today’s New York Times story brings to light multiple compliance issues, some of which I have raised as a strong objection to ratifying the New START Treaty,” said Risch. “I am disappointed the Administration knew this information and chose to keep it from the Congress. The security of America is the government’s first priority and it is time the Administration was honest with the American people. When Secretary Kerry was Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he expressed grave concerns regarding Russian cheating and urged in the strongest terms that there needs to be real consequences for cheating. I hope he will maintain that position now that violations have been made public.”

Risch and Rubio pointed out other issues raised by today’s New York Times article.

Senators Risch and Rubio are the only Senators to serve on both the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Senators Risch and Rubio introduced S.1924 on the issue of INF Treaty Compliance and Information Sharing.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined the fight in defense of Americans’ First Amendment rights by signing an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius.

The amicus brief was spearheaded by U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) and U.S. Representative Randy Forbes (R-VA) and was co-signed by a bipartisan group of 15 Senators and 71 House members. The U.S. Supreme Court announced that it will hear oral arguments on March 25, 2014, in two cases challenging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate.

The amicus brief lays out three arguments: 

  1. Congress has a long tradition of protecting religious liberty – including that of groups – and there has traditionally been strong bipartisan support for such efforts.
  2. Congress enacted the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to ensure broad protection of religious liberty, whether or not a specific religious exemption appears in a particular law.
  3. The HHS regulations do not satisfy the high bar set by RFRA. RFRA’s requirements govern the Affordable Care Act like all other statutes that do not contain an express disclaimer. Both Hobby Lobby and its owners are protected by RFRA.

To read the amicus brief, click here.

  1. Marco comes face to face with the North Korean regime. Standing in the conference room at the Korean Demilitarized Zone, a North Korean soldier takes his picture through the window:Blog Post: DMZ window
  2. Marco visits Manila American Cemetery, where more than 17,000 American soldiers are buried (photo credit: The American Battle Monuments Commission):Blog Post: Cemetery
  3. Marco bags coffee at the food distribution center in Tacloban, a city in the Philippines recently devastated by Typhoon Haiyan:Blog Post: Coffee
  4. Marco meets with Congressman Manny Pacquiao while in the Philippines: Blog Post: Manny P
  5. While visiting the Korean Demilitarized Zone, Marco stood just feet from “the edge of freedom.” North Korean soldiers stand just feet away on the other side of the dividing line between North and South Korea:Blog Post: DMZ border
  6. During his official trip to South Korea, Marco visited with Shin Dong-hyuk, a human rights activist who is the only known person to have been born in a North Korean prison camp, spent his entire life imprisoned, escaped and lived to tell the story:Blog Post: NK activist
  7. Marco meeting with South Korean President Park Geun-hye to discuss economic and security concerns at the presidential Blue House (photo credit: The Blue House):Blog Post: President Park
  8. Marco visiting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe:Blog Post: PM Abe
  9. Rear Admiral Mark Montgomery explains combat operations to Marco during a tour of guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (photo credit: U.S. Navy):Blog Post: USS Shiloh
  10. Marco at LG Display, the largest manufacturer of LCD panels:Blog Post: LGD
  11. U.S. Navy sailors salute Marco as he boards the USS Blue Ridge, command ship the Seventh Fleet in Yokosuka, Japan (photo credit: U.S. Navy):Blog Post: Seventh Fleet


On this International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we honor the millions of innocent people who were killed in what will forever be remembered as one of the darkest chapters in human history.

This day in 1945 marked the liberation of Auschwitz and the beginning of a long journey of grief, heartache and recovery for all those subjected to severe torment and unimaginable conditions throughout the Holocaust. Sadly, liberation by the allied forces came too late to save the 1.1 million who died in Auschwitz and the millions more killed in similar concentration camps. But we give thanks that so many were saved and given a chance to rebuild their lives, their families and their communities.

The Holocaust will forever stand as a grave example of the terrifying capabilities of evil, the dangers of absolute power, and the price the world pays when it turns a blind eye to oppression. But it also stands as an emblem of extraordinary resilience and courage; a marker of the power of faith, hope and love in surmounting even the worst horrors imaginable.

Florida is home to many Holocaust survivors, as well as their descendants. I’ll never forget the few times that I have had the humbling experience of meeting a Holocaust survivor and seeing the concentration camp numbers forever marked on their skin. We owe a debt of gratitude to all those who decided not to repress their painful memories but instead to share them with younger generations. Their courageous work and advocacy has been critical in making sure that “never again” will the world know of a human tragedy like the Holocaust.

Today is a particularly solemn day for many millions of Jewish people throughout the world, including in the nation of Israel. I remember how deeply affected I was by my visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum in Israel, and the depictions there of the terrors inflicted upon the Jewish people. As Americans, we are reminded that “never again” means standing with our Israeli friends in the face of threats from nations and terrorist organizations committed to her destruction.

My wife Jeanette and I hold all who perished or were impacted by the Holocaust in our prayers on this solemn day of grief, reflection and remembrance.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is an important American tradition that honors one man’s struggle for justice and equality for all. On this day, we celebrate an American hero who, through the power of words and peaceful resolve, fought the violent and legal injustices that plagued our nation in the 20th century. His struggle made the country more true to its founding ideals: that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights.
In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dr. King wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Despite his incarceration, King’s words were emboldened with a hope and conviction that have continued to inspire countless men and women - even decades after his death. His empowering vision of a world built on brotherhood and equality has helped shape this great nation and inspired freedom movements around the world.
Nearly 51 years ago, not far from my office on Capitol Hill, King stood before a crowd and famously delivered a speech that described a world where one’s skin color would be nothing more than a color. He envisioned a world where one would be defined by their character. A world where all men and women could sit down together and be united by the shared essence of humanity, and a world where all children could join hands, never knowing the harsh realities of prejudice and intolerance.
Despite Dr. King’s untimely death, his legacy is immortal. I urge everyone to reflect on the principles of Martin Luther King Jr. and the virtues he peacefully defended, so that we, as a nation, can continue to embody his dream of opportunity and equality for all.

Dear friends,

Following the March for Life, Senator Rubio invites you to visit his office, Room 284 in the Russell Senate Office Building. Hot coffee will be served between the hours of 1:00pm and 5:00pm.  Senator Rubio extends his regrets for not being present as the Senate is in recess, but we look forward to seeing all our pro-life friends from Florida.