By Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board
Florida voters tired of gridlock in Washington have a clear choice for U.S. Senate. Democrat Patrick Murphy of Jupiter has served just two terms in the House, but he is a centrist who is right on the issues and works in a bipartisan fashion. Incumbent Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Miami is on the wrong side of most every issue, and he changed his mind about seeking re-election after he was crushed by Donald Trump in the Florida presidential primary. A Senate seat should not be a consolation prize for a failed presidential candidate killing time until his next run for the White House.
Here are 12 reasons Florida voters should replace Rubio with Murphy:
1 Murphy wants to be a senator and promises to serve the full six-year term. Rubio showed sporadic interest in the job, frequently expressed his frustration and focused on running for president.
Rubio’s overall voting record is the worst of any U.S. senator from Florida in a half-century. While running for president, he had a worse voting record between March 2015 and March 2016 than any other sitting senator. He vowed not to seek a second term if he did not win the Republican nomination for president, then changed his mind. This is not the record of a politician dedicated to serving his constituents.
Does anyone really think Rubio would serve a full second term rather than run for president again in four years?
2 Murphy wants to improve the Affordable Care Act, which has provided health care to another 1.5 million Floridians. Rubio wants to repeal the law and sabotaged it by making it harder to cover $2.5 billion owed to insurers to spread the risk of covering more sick people. His proposals for refundable tax credits to help Americans buy health insurance and block grants to states are predictable and insufficient.
3 Murphy supports comprehensive immigration reform that includes tougher border controls and a long path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country. Rubio helped craft legislation that reflected those goals and passed the Senate in 2013, then abandoned it after backlash from conservatives. Now he says border security must come first, and he is vague about how to deal with undocumented immigrants later. He opposes the executive order by President Barack Obama that temporarily shields from deportation younger undocumented immigrants brought here as children. Murphy supports Obama’s executive order and the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students to go to college or join the military.
4 Murphy supports raising the $118,500 income cap on the Social Security tax to extend the long-term life of the nation’s safety net. Rubio would rather gradually raise the age to receive benefits for anyone under 55 years old.
5 Murphy recognizes humans are contributing to climate change and lists helping Florida cope as a top priority. Rubio acknowledges the climate is changing but remains in denial that humans are contributing to it.
6 Murphy supports the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration, which has lengthened the time it would take for Iranians to produce a nuclear bomb. Rubio opposes the agreement.
7 Murphy supports efforts to normalize relations with Cuba and gradually lift the economic embargo, which would have enormous economic benefits for Tampa Bay. Rubio remains stuck in the past. He objects to the new commercial flights from Tampa to Cuba and opposes lifting the embargo.
8 Murphy and Rubio support restoration of the Everglades, including $1.9 billion in a water bill awaiting final approval. But Rubio remains hostage to the sugar industry contributing to the pollution. His presidential campaign effort received $486,000 from the sugar industry, and he still endorses unnecessary U.S. price supports for domestic sugar. Rubio claims he would eliminate them when Brazil and India eliminate theirs, which means never. He also does not support a proposal to buy land owned by sugar interests south of Lake Okeechobee to hold excess lake water that helped spawn massive algae blooms this summer in the St. Lucie River. Murphy, whose congressional district has been affected by the algae blooms, has not received money from the sugar industry. He supports a review of all agricultural price supports, including for sugar, and he supports the land-buying proposal by the incoming Florida Senate president, Republican Joe Negron.
9 Murphy supports sensible gun controls, such as banning military-style assault weapons, limiting the capacity of magazines and closing the gun show loophole. Rubio opposes all of those measures and is a National Rifle Association favorite.
10 Murphy supports abortion rights. Rubio opposes abortion rights even in cases of rape and incest, an extreme position. He co-sponsored legislation that would ban abortion at 20 weeks, before doctors can tell in most cases whether a fetus will be born with birth defects. Murphy voted against that legislation and efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, which Rubio supported.
11 Murphy supports gay marriage and co-sponsored legislation to ban LGBT discrimination in employment. Rubio opposes gay marriage and spoke to a group in August that the Southern Poverty Law Center considers an anti-LGBT hate group.
12 Murphy has been endorsed by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, both fellow Democrats, and would work closely with them on issues affecting the region. Until his re-election campaign, Rubio rarely visited Tampa Bay on official business and has little or no relationship with the region’s top political leaders from either party.
Rubio has the name recognition, campaign cash and smooth talk. Murphy has the mainstream policy positions and the stronger commitment to representing the best interests of all Floridians. For U.S. Senate, the Tampa Bay Times recommends Patrick Murphy.
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