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Now that the federal government shutdown is over, the blame game is well under way.
On Fox News Sunday, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., emphasized that he didn’t favor a government shutdown even though many observers have accused his party of instigating the shutdown as a way of defunding or delaying President Barack Obama’s health care law.
On Oct. 20, 2013, host Chris Wallace asked Rubio whether he was "really prepared to keep the government shut down" when he voted against the final deal to re-open the government and avoid hitting the debt ceiling.
"Well, let me be clear," Rubio responded. "I never was in favor of shutting down the government. I was never in favor of defunding the government. I was in favor of funding the government fully, voted to fund the government fully, made efforts to fund the government fully."
Later in the interview, Rubio reiterated, "I never wanted there to be a government shutdown. … The people who shut down the government were the president and the Democrats in the Senate, who basically said that unless you fund … Obamacare, we are unwilling to fund the entire government. They took that position, and they forced this situation that we've just gone through."
Rubio has a point that Democrats, including Obama, ought to shoulder some of the responsibility for the government shutdown. Democrats decided that voting to continue funding the government on the Republicans’ terms was too bitter a pill to swallow, and ultimately that turned out to be a successful negotiating position. But that doesn’t absolve them of all responsibility for the government closure.
In this item, however, we are looking at the flip side -- namely, whether Rubio is right that "I never was in favor of shutting down the government. … (I) voted to fund the government fully."
We’ll take the two parts of this question separately. (Rubio’s office did not respond to inquiries for this story.)
"I never was in favor of shutting down the government."
It’s true that on multiple occasions, Rubio stated publicly that he didn’t want to shut down the government. On Sept. 27, 2013, he told Greta Van Susteren of Fox News that "I don't know of any Republicans in favor of a government shutdown. … The truth is, this isn't about shutting down the government. This is about shutting down Obamacare."
In a Capitol hallway interview with reporters the same day, Rubio said something virtually identical. He has frequently deflected blame on Democratic leaders for pushing a shutdown.
However, we found two examples of Rubio stating support for positions that made the shutdown possible, even inevitable.
• At a July 11, 2013, Washington breakfast sponsored by the Concerned Veterans for America and The Weekly Standard, Rubio advocated stripping Obamacare funding from the next temporary government spending measure, known as a "continuing resolution."
"We should not pass a continuing resolution, and I will not vote for a continuing resolution unless it defunds Obamacare for the period of time of the continuing resolution. I'd like to see it permanently repealed, but at a minimum, we should agree to do that."
Preventing passage of a continuing resolution would deny operating funds for the federal government and effectively shut it down.
• Along the same lines, Rubio was quoted in the Washington Times on July 24, 2013, as saying, "The argument I’ve made to my colleagues is that there are some issues that are so fundamental that we have to be willing to go all the way on them. I think Obamacare is one of them."
In this context, going "all the way" meant opposing a continuing resolution. We know this because the set-up to that quote in the Washington Times paraphrased Rubio as saying, in the Times’ words, that "Republican opposition to President Obama’s health care law is so integral to the party’s principles that his colleagues should be ready to reject any spending bills that fund the reforms."
So these two sets of comments show that Rubio said he was comfortable pursuing a strategy that could lead to a government shutdown.
Rubio "voted to fund the government fully"
In numerous Senate votes immediately before and during the shutdown, Rubio sided with Republicans in opposing Democratic bills that would have implemented a "clean" continuing resolution -- that is, a bill to resume funding the government that didn’t include other conditions, particularly those backed by Republicans that would have defunded or delayed Obamacare.
• Senate votes 206, 207, 208 and 209 on Sept. 27. In each of these votes, including both procedural and substantive votes, Rubio joined most Republicans in voting against a "clean" continuing resolution. He did so because the measure in question continued to fund Obamacare, a policy he opposed. Still, had he voted for these bills, they would have funded the government "fully."
• Senate votes 210 and 211 on Sept. 30. In both votes, Rubio sided with Republicans in opposing a Senate Democratic move to strip anti-Obamacare provisions from a continuing resolution that had been passed by the House and that would have otherwise funded the government.
• Senate vote 216 on Oct. 12. Rubio voted against another Democratic effort to pass a "clean" continuing resolution. The vote failed to reach the required 60-vote threshold because the Democrats couldn’t persuade any Republicans to break ranks. (Senate votes 213, 214 and 215 were not directly related to the shutdown.)
• Senate vote 218 and 219 on Oct. 16. Senate leaders from both parties crafted a deal designed to end the shutdown, and it passed, 81-18. But Rubio was one of the Republicans who voted against it, both on a procedural vote and on the measure itself. (Senate vote 217 was unrelated to the shutdown.)
The Rubio vote that comes closest to qualifying as one to "fund the government fully" was Senate vote 212 on Oct. 1. Rubio joined Republicans in voting against tabling (that is, setting aside and ignoring) a House request to convene a joint House-Senate conference committee to consider the bill the Senate had rejected on Sept. 30.
The House-backed bill that failed in the Senate would have funded the government but delayed the individual mandate in the health care bill, eliminated employer premium cost-sharing for congressional workers forced to purchase plans on the Obamacare marketplace, and requested the bicameral negotiating conference. By voting not to table this request, Rubio did effectively keep alive a legislative vehicle that would have ended the shutdown, only with conditions that Democrats considered unacceptable.
So that’s one vote that might be used to support this half of Rubio’s claim. But it’s outweighed by nine other votes in which Rubio opposed measures to re-open the government or opposed advancing such a bill through the legislative process.
We shared our findings with Rubio's office and asked for their comments, but we didn't receive a response.
Rubio appears to be making the case that he would have liked to have achieved his goals without having to shut down the government, and that he would have been happy to fund the government fully if doing so was paired with provisions defunding or delaying Obamacare. He may have felt that way, but both of the specific claims he makes are problematic.
His claim that "I never was in favor of shutting down the government" is undercut by two separate comments in which he supported a strategy of opposing Obamacare even if that meant rejecting a bill that would have kept the government open. And on the question of whether he "voted to fund the government fully," he arguably may have done so once, but took the opposite position nine times.
Given the political realities of the budget battle, Rubio's words and actions suggest he wanted Obamacare defunded more than he wanted to keep the government open.
As we noted, where responsibility for the shutdown is concerned, it takes two to tango. But in this case, there’s very little to support Rubio’s twin claims. We rate his claim Mostly False.
Marco Rubio, comments on Fox News Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013
Federal News Service, media stakeout with Republican senators in the Ohio Clock Corridor of the U.S. Capitol, Sept. 27, 2013 (accessed via Nexis)
Fox News, "Fox and Friends" interview with Marco Rubio, Sept. 25, 2013 (accessed via Nexis)
Fox News, Marco Rubio interview with Greta Van Susteren, Sept. 27, 2013 (accessed via Nexis)
Washington Times, "Rubio joins effort to de-fund Obamacare," July 24, 2013
Tampa Bay Times, "Rubio: defund healthcare law, balance budget," July 11, 2013
New York Times, "The Back and Forth Over the Shutdown and Debt Ceiling," Oct. 17, 2013
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