"Both Cruz and Rubio are missing the vast majority of their votes."

Rand Paul on Sunday, January 3rd, 2016 in an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press"

Mostly False

Rand Paul overstates missed votes for Ted Cruz but not Marco Rubio

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., criticizes the missed votes of his GOP presidential foes and fellow senators, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Jan. 3, 2016. (NBC photo)

While most 2016 candidates have spent the past few weeks campaigning around early primary states, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has had a light schedule

NBC Meet the Press host Chuck Todd asked Paul why he hasn’t hosted a public event since Dec. 16 in Nevada.

Paul said he’s been attending to other responsibilities, such as spending time with his family, performing pro-bono surgeries (he’s an ophthalmologist), and hosting fundraisers — not to mention his job as a senator. Paul went after the voting records of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

"I mean, I have a job as senator," Paul said Jan. 3. "I'm one of the few of the candidates that actually shows up to vote. Both Cruz and Rubio are missing the vast majority of their votes. But I feel an obligation to the taxpayer that pays my salary."

Critics have attacked Rubio’s Senate voting record throughout the 2016 cycle, so we decided to dig in a little further and see how it compares to the records of Cruz and Paul.

We found that Paul far overstated when he said Cruz and Rubio missed "the vast majority of their votes."

The votes

Paul used his busy Senate schedule as an excuse for not hosting many campaign events in the latter half of December, but there wasn’t too much going on at Capitol Hill during this time. The Senate has been in recess since Dec. 18 and won’t be back in session until Jan. 11.

Paul didn’t specify a time frame, but his campaign sent over data for his, Cruz’s and Rubio’s Senate careers. We found the same data on the website GovTrack. In the chart below, we’ve counted the career absentee rate for each of the current or former senators running for president.


Career absentee rate

Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)

13.3 percent (197 out of 1,482)

Ted Cruz (R-Texas)

12.4 percent (124 out of 996)

Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

4.0 percent (59 out of 1,482)

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)

3.6 percent (102 out of 2,835)

Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y., 2001-2009)

9.5 percent (249 out of 2,616)

Rick Santorum (R-Pa., 1995-2006 )

1.9 percent (79 out of 4,156)



Concerning their career absentee rates, Rubio has the worst record, missing 13.3 percent of all votes. He’s followed by Cruz at 12.4 percent and Clinton at 9.5 percent. Paul and Sanders have both missed closer to 4 percent.

All five are far away from the median career absentee rate for all current senators, 1.7 percent. Santorum comes close with 1.9 percent.

However, no candidate has missed a "vast majority" of his or her votes.

Another way to interpret Paul’s statement is that he is specifically referring to votes cast during the 2016 election cycle or in recent months. Here are the current senators’ records from October through December of last year, as well as for 2015 as a whole. (We chose October through December because GovTrack breaks down its data into three-month periods.)


Oct.-Dec 2015 votes missed (out of 67)

Oct.-Dec 2015 absentee rate

2015 votes missed (out of 339)

2015 absentee rate

Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)


58.2 percent


35.4 percent

Ted Cruz (R-Texas)


29.8 percent


23.6 percent

Rand Paul (R-Ky.)


20.9 percent


5.9 percent

Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)


28.4 percent


8.3 percent

Between the months of October and December, specifically, Rubio did miss a majority of his votes, skipping 39 out of 67 total votes. Notably, Rubio missed the Dec. 18 final vote on a major spending bill, while Cruz and Paul both voted against it.

However, Cruz did not miss a majority of his votes in that time period. Neither Cruz nor Rubio missed a majority in 2015 overall.

Paul and Sanders have had a better voting record throughout the 2016 election so far than Cruz and Rubio, but Paul’s statement inflates the gap.

Our ruling

Paul said "Rubio and Cruz are missing the vast majority of their votes" in the Senate.

Paul has a point that he has a better Senate voting record than Cruz and Rubio. And over the past three months, Rubio has missed a majority of his votes, skipping out on nearly 60 percent as he campaigns for president.

This doesn’t hold for Rubio’s 2015 record or his Senate career. And Cruz has not missed a majority of his votes over any of those time periods.

Paul’s criticism goes too far in saying both candidates are "missing the vast majority of their votes," so we rate it Mostly False.



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