Absentee senator: Vote or resign, Florida paper tells Sen. Marco Rubio

Sen. Marco Rubio is blasted for missing one-third of Senate votes this year, but says congressional gridlock defeats the purpose. Some Floridians aren't happy with his absenteeism. 

John Locher/ AP
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., campaigns in Las Vegas in October. Sen. Rubio's presidential bid has often taken time away from his Senate responsibilities, critics say.

The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel pulled no punches with Sen. Marco Rubio, penning a Tuesday editorial that proclaimed the oft-absent lawmaker should "resign, not rip us off."

It's one of the fiercest criticisms Senator Rubio has yet faced over his attendance record in Congress: he's missed almost one third of votes, the worst attendance in the Senate, causing campaign rivals Jeb Bush and Donald Trump to question if he's presidential material — or, at the very least, deserves to have his pay docked.

The Sun-Sentinel, which endorsed Rubio in 2010, writes that it's fed up with his no shows

You are paid $174,000 per year to represent us, to fight for us, to solve our problems. Plus you take a $10,000 federal subsidy — declined by some in the Senate — to participate in one of the Obamacare health plans, though you are a big critic of Obamacare.

You are ripping us off, senator....

By choosing to stay in the Senate and get the publicity, perks and pay that go with the position — without doing the work — you are taking advantage of us," the editors wrote. 

A month ago, 48 percent of Floridians surveyed told Public Policy Polling that Rubio should drop out of the race altogether, a demographic probably relieved that he's not running for Senate re-election, too.  

Although Rubio is taking all the heat for letting his 2016 presidential campaign dictate his schedule, plenty of other senators, particularly fellow campaigners, are also missing votes.

In early October, the Washington Times calculated that Sen. Lindsay Graham (R) of South Carolina had skipped 69 votes, out of the then-total 278; Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas was close behind, with 62. 

Presidential campaigners typically get a reprieve: as the Washington Times points out, then-Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama missed over a quarter of votes as their campaigns heated up, and Sen. John McCain's 2008 Republican presidential race pulled him away from the Hill almost 50 percent of the time.

But even for the congressional rank and file, absenteeism may be a problem on the rise. 

In 2013, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D) of California proposed allowing members of Congress to vote via phone, and increase tech use overall to let reps work more effectively at home or on the road. Mr. Swalwell suggested the measure would help increase women's representation, in particular.

But other members said time away from Washington is the problem itself. 

"Things are bad now because there is not as much communication and virtually no cross-pollination between the parties. And if you take away the remaining personal contact that comes from voting on the House floor, you destroy the House as an institution," former Pennsylvania Rep. Robert Walker told Newsmax. 

Senate historian Betty Koed explained to Vocativ that members from the minority party sometimes stay away because they "have less of an interest in getting bills passed." Perhaps that's why Republicans boast 9 of the Senate's top 10 absentees. 

Time and again, Rubio has voiced his frustration with congressional gridlock. Lately, he's said that's exactly why he's running for president ... and, therefore, not on the Hill. 

"I'm running for president so that the votes they take in the Senate are actually meaningful again," he told CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

"Voting is not the only part of the Senate job. I mean, the most important thing a Senator does is constituent service," he added. 

But the Sun-Sentinel, and some of its readers, see them as one and the same.

"Floridians sent you to Washington to do a job," the editors insist. "Look, a lot us are frustrated by our jobs and office politics. But we still show up for work every day to earn a paycheck."

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