Two questions. One: Is he right? Two: Given that he’s been pounded for weeks for missing Senate votes, does it matter?
On the first question, the answer is “depends.” You all know that it takes 60 votes to invoke cloture, i.e. prevent a filibuster, and move to a final vote on a bill. That number doesn’t change depending on how many senators show up for the vote. As people who know Senate rules better than I do pointed out to me on Twitter, the rule on cloture says it can only be invoked “by three-fifths of the Senators duly chosen and sworn.” That means three-fifths of the entire body of 100, not three-fifths of those present and voting. In that case, Rubio’s correct that his absence didn’t matter to cloture. Fans of the omnibus needed 60 votes to advance it. Whether he showed up and voted no or stayed home, they weren’t getting his vote, which means they were no closer to 60 either way.
But a filibuster wasn’t the only way opponents of the omnibus attempted to block it today. Phil Kerpen notes that a motion to table the bill was brought by conservatives in hopes of defeating it. A motion to table requires a simple majority to pass; the motion today failed badly, 31-67, despite support from Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and others. Obviously Rubio’s vote wouldn’t have changed the outcome but then neither would Cruz’s or Paul’s and they showed up to register their dissent. And Rubio’s vote would have gotten them closer to the 51 they needed. It mattered to the effort, if not to the outcome.
Rand Paul hit him hard afterward:
“It’s a trillion dollars in spending and I think earlier this week he talked about having some activity and then wasn’t here,” Paul told POLITICO. “So yeah I think it’s important to show up to your job. I think that really he ought to resign or quit accepting his pay if he’s not going to come to work.”
Paul voted against the measure. Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio’s presidential campaign, responded: “Votes like Friday’s are why Marco is running for president.”
So did Paul ally Justin Amash:
How about showing up for work today in Congress instead of selling wall calendars? https://t.co/7gr6vGbjV5
— Justin Amash (@justinamash) December 18, 2015
Second question: Does it matter that he skipped the vote knowing it wouldn’t change the outcome? Yeah, of course it matters. Tea partiers are going berserk over the omnibus. The least he could do when he’s already taking heat for missing Senate votes to campaign, especially after he talked tough on TV yesterday about using every procedural measure available to oppose the bill, is fly in and show his solidarity by voting no. For a guy’s who’s cracked up to be the best communicator in the field, glibly dismissing his absence on a big vote is a weirdly tone-deaf reaction to the base’s anger. From a perspective of pure political self-interest, why hand Cruz another weapon to use against him? Cruz is working hard to paint Rubio as a guy who ran as an outsider and then got very comfortable as an insider, especially on immigration. How does that argument feel while you’re watching this?
Bizarre. Exit question: Does it matter that Ted Cruz used this same argument himself to defend his own missed vote on Loretta Lynch’s confirmation? Or is it a matter of the omnibus being a much higher priority for the right?
Update: Rubio spokesman Alex Conant e-mails:
“Votes like Friday’s are why Marco is running for president. Leaders in Washington crafted this trillion dollar spending bill in secret, and unveiled it during the debate on Tuesday night. Marco had barely 48 hours to review over 2,000 pages of spending. Marco has consistently voted against those sorts of bills, but the truth is that it’s not going to change until we elect a new president. That’s why Marco is meeting voters in Iowa today.”