Marco Rubio has yet to bow to pressure to reconsider his decision against seeking re-election to the U.S. Senate. But he is pushing back hard against the suggestion that he didn’t like his job in the upper house of Congress.
"Flashback to another article quoting a ‘longtime friend’ saying I ‘hate’ Senate. Words I have NEVER said to anyone," Rubio tweeted on May 16, 2016.
The tweet linked to a Washington Post article put online on Oct. 25, 2015, that quoted an anonymous Floridian friend of Rubio’s as saying the gridlock in the Senate had worn out the freshman senator. "He hates it," the source said.
"I don’t know that ‘hate’ is the right word," Rubio told the newspaper at the time. "I’m frustrated."
Rubio described in the story the plodding pace of the Senate after he was elected in 2010. He said he was forced to "slow-dance and wait" for the Senate to gain a majority in 2012 and 2014 in order to accomplish anything. He said he was then told in 2015 that, "We gotta wait to elect the president" to get any bills passed. The story said that was when Rubio essentially gave up on being a senator.
But was Rubio correct in tweeting months later that he had never said he hated the Senate?
Obviously we can’t check what he may have said in private conversations, so we’ll have to take him at his word there. And we don’t know the name of the source quoted by the Post, so we can’t learn more about that context. But Rubio has made comments that showed he sometimes was less than thrilled about working on Capitol Hill.
What Rubio did say
Rubio’s disenchantment with the Senate looks to have started early — he told a newspaper he was stymied by his first year in office.
Dec. 18, 2011, South Florida Sun Sentinel: "I can't think of a single real high point. By and large, this has been a highly dysfunctional Congress, particularly in the Senate. It seems like the entire year has just been one big staged event, trying to get political advantage in the next election. You look at the major issues facing this country, and few if any of them have been confronted."
But it wasn’t until he announced in April 2015 he was running for president and faced criticism for missing a third of his votes that his feelings about the Senate became a subject of discussion.
Billionaire Rubio donor Norman Braman, a South Florida auto dealer, told National Review in April 2015 that Rubio was "frustrated with the fact that the Senate doesn’t do anything." And Rubio said on several occasions that he sought the White House because the Senate was ineffectual.
Sept. 16, 2015, GOP presidential debate in Simi Valley, Calif.: (Donald Trump said during the debate that Rubio had the "worst voting record there is today," a statement we rated Mostly True.) "I'm proud to serve in the United States Senate. … In my years in the Senate, I've figured out very quickly that the political establishment in Washington, D.C. in both political parties is completely out of touch with the lives of our people. … That's why I'm missing votes. Because I am leaving the Senate, I'm not running for re-election, and I'm running for president because I know this: unless we have the right president, we cannot make America fulfill its potential."
Sept. 30, 2015, Hannity: "Yes, I've worked in the Senate for four years, but I'm not of the Senate. I work in the Senate, I’m proud to represent Florida in the Senate. But let’s remember why I went there to begin with. I went to the U.S. Senate because I didn’t like the direction of this country, and I didn’t think either party was doing a good job in that regard. And that’s the same reason why I’m not running for re-election, and instead I’m running for president."
Oct. 6, 2015, Today: "The majority of the job of being a senator is not walking on to the Senate floor and lifting your finger on a non-controversial issue and seeing which way you’re going to vote. The majority of the work of a senator is the constituent service to committee work, that continues forward unabated."
Oct. 7, 2015, New Hampshire TV interview: "These votes that are happening in the Senate, we’re not going to be able to make a difference unless we have a new president, and a better president and that’s why I’m running for president."
The same day the Post article was put online, Rubio addressed his voting record on CNN. He said that Senate votes were effectively pointless.
Oct. 25, 2015, State of the Union with Jake Tapper: "I'm not missing votes because I'm on vacation. … I'm running for president so that the votes they take in the Senate are actually meaningful again. A lot of these votes won't mean anything. They're not going to pass, and even if they did, the President would veto it. "
The Post story and Rubio’s comments led to an outcry in Florida media, with several outlets criticizing Rubio for not fulfilling his legislative duties. The Sun Sentinel wrote a scathing editorial calling for Rubio to resign, leading to the subject coming up in a debate.
At the Oct. 28, 2015, GOP debate in Boulder, Colo., CNBC anchor Carl Quintanilla asked Rubio about the editorial and whether he hated his job. Rubio only called the editorial "evidence of the bias that exists in the American media today." He said prior presidential candidates Barack Obama, John Kerry and Bob Graham all had missed many Senate votes while campaigning for president, a claim we rated True.
The issue dogged Rubio through the rest of the campaign. At a Jan. 5, 2016, town hall in Iowa, Rubio again said senators were basically powerless.
"I have missed votes this year. You know why? Because while as a senator I can help shape the agenda. Only a president can set the agenda," he said. "We’re not going to fix America with senators and congressmen."
He kept up his insistence that only a good executive can help in a Jan. 26 tweet of a campaign ad that said, "Washington is broken and both parties are to blame."
Rubio dropped out of the race March 15 after coming in a distant second to Trump in Florida’s GOP primary. A month later, on April 14, Rubio excoriated the Senate in a floor speech for refusing to allow a vote on an amendment he introduced that would have curbed automatic welfare benefits for Cuban refugees.
"They’re saying we can't do it, and no one will tell you why we can't do it except some procedural internal Senate thing," Rubio said. "This is ridiculous. This is why people are angry."
More recently, after insisting for months Trump would not be the Republican nominee for president, he has pledged support to the real estate mogul. Meanwhile, GOP leaders have started asking him to seek re-election to the Senate in an already crowded Republican field.
Rubio said he never told anyone he hated the U.S. Senate.
Private conversations notwithstanding, we couldn’t find any evidence that he ever used the word "hate" (or any version of it) while discussing the Senate in a public forum. But it’s pretty clear Rubio harbored some disdain for the tedium of the political process, calling the Senate dysfunctional and votes meaningless.
The statement is accurate but needs clarification or additional information. We rate his statement Mostly True.