U.S. Senator Marco Rubio further separated himself from other potential Republican presidential contenders in his chamber by supporting a spending measure that includes President Barack Obama’s plan to arm and train Syrian rebels.
Rubio was one of 78 senators voting for the request yesterday from Obama, while Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul were among the 22 opposing it.
The three, all of whom have said they’re considering 2016 presidential campaigns, rarely are on opposite sides of a vote. Still, Rubio in particular has charted his own way on some high- profile issues. And when such breaks occur, it creates fodder for the emerging debate among Republicans as they turn to picking their next presidential nominee.
“These situations create some distinction and help define their differences,” said David Winston, president of the Winston Group, a Republican strategy firm in Washington. “This one is a reflection of how they’d behave if they had the full foreign affairs responsibility.”
Rubio, of Florida, has voted the same as Paul and Cruz 79 percent of the time during the 2013-2014 congressional session, according to the Sunlight Foundation in Washington, which tracks such data. Paul, of Kentucky, and Cruz, of Texas, have found themselves on the same side of votes 85 percent of the time. Rubio’s splits with his two colleagues have attracted attention because of the issues involved.
He took a lead role in crafting the immigration plan the Senate passed with bipartisan support last year. Cruz and Paul, though, opposed the bill, which stalled in the Republican- controlled House.
Rubio was also the odd man out with the other two in his votes opposing the extension of government-backed terrorism insurance and supporting flood insurance. He differed again with them in opposing a measure this year to revise military sexual- assault policies, which Cruz and Paul backed.
Among the three, Rubio has pushed the most aggressive vision for U.S. foreign policy. He has called for an increase in military spending, expanding the size of the military, and halting the troop drawdown in Afghanistan.
In voting for the plan to aid some of the rebels fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Rubio said failure to influence the civil war would give militants such as Islamic State space to plot against the U.S. and “freedom- loving and peace-loving people in the world.”
“People in both parties have taken too long to realize what a threat this is,” Rubio said.
Paul has been most reluctant of the three to involve the U.S. in global issues; in 2011, he proposed an end to all foreign aid, and has since suggested freezing such funding at $5 billion annually.
He said on the Senate floor yesterday that while there are valid reasons for war, “they should be very far and few between.”
“I’m not sending your son, your daughter or mine into the middle of that chaos,” Paul said about Syria.
Obama has stressed that his plan for stemming Islamic State in Syria and Iraq doesn’t include committing U.S. combat troops to the fight.
Paul, unlike Rubio and Cruz, has been more willing to support personnel choices by Obama. He voted to confirm Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, nominations Rubio and Cruz opposed.
Paul also opposed an amendment to require any debt-limit increase be balanced by equal spending cuts over the next decade, which Rubio and Cruz supported.
Cruz was alone among the trio in voting against John Kerry’s confirmation as secretary of state.
He said he opposed arming Syrian rebels because, in his view, it’s not part of a coherent plan by the administration.
“Resolving the Syrian civil war is not our mission, nor the job of the military,” Cruz said on the Senate floor yesterday.
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