Exclusive — Team Cruz Fires at Rubio for Skipping 18 Defense Bill Votes in 2015: Marco ‘Was Nowhere to Be Found’

Mary Schwalm, AP
Mary Schwalm, AP

COLUMBIA, South Carolina — The campaign of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued a blistering rebuke at Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the establishment-backed non-conservative frontrunner here in South Carolina, after it has come to light Rubio repeatedly skipped vote after vote after vote on important bills related to national security and defense policy.

Rubio skipped more than 15 votes on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) over the course of 2015 so he could campaign for president. In fact, the total number of defense bill votes Rubio skipped in 2015 was 18 votes—far more than anyone else in the U.S. Senate.

On June 4, 2015, for instance, Rubio skipped three votes relating to amendments that strengthened the national security elements of the NDAA. One amendment he skipped voting for, which passed without his support, came from Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC) and provided “for the stationing of C-130 H aircraft avionics previously modified by the Avionics Modernization Program (AMP) in support of daily training and contingency requirements for Airborne and Special Operations Forces.”

Another amendment he skipped voting on came from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and would have revised “the definition of spouse for purposes of veterans benefits in recognition of new State definitions of spouse.” The amendment failed without Rubio being there.

The other amendment Rubio skipped voting for, which came from Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) and passed without Rubio being there, provided “additional amounts for procurement and for research, development, test, and evaluation for Stryker Lethality Upgrades, and to provide an offset.”

Those were hardly the only votes Rubio skipped as it related to the defense bill. On June 9, 2015, Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) offered an amendment that would have limited “the availability of amounts authorized to be appropriated for overseas contingency operations pending relief from the spending limits under the Budget Control Act of 2011.” Rubio skipped the vote. So did Cruz. But the measure failed without both of them there.

On June 10 and June 11, Rubio skipped two more defense bill votes. Cruz missed the one on June 11.

On June 16, Rubio skipped another defense bill vote. That amendment, from Sen. John McCain (R-AZ)—who was a prisoner of war and was tortured in Vietnam in the “Hanoi Hilton”—reaffirmed “the prohibition on torture.” Rubio was the only U.S. Senator who couldn’t show up to vote for McCain’s amendment.

Also on June 16, Rubio skipped a vote for an amendment from Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) that fell just six votes short of passage. Ernst’s amendment would have provided “for a temporary, emergency authorization of defense articles, defense services, and related training directly to the Kurdistan Regional Government.” Essentially, it would have armed the Kurds to take on the Islamic State, or ISIS.

Rubio was the only senator who didn’t show up to vote, and since a handful of Republicans voted against the amendment with most Democrats, if Rubio had been there and doing his job to make a passionate case to fight ISIS this way, maybe the result would have been different. That day, he also skipped votes on amendments from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), another from McCain, and one from Sen. David Vitter (D-LA).

The next day, on June 17, Rubio skipped the key cloture vote necessary to pass the defense bill—at that point finalized—out of the Senate. He showed up on June 18 to vote for the bill’s final passage, after avoiding all of the hard work on the bill leading up to that point.

But Rubio wasn’t done skipping National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) votes in 2015 at that point. On July 9, 2015, Senate records show Rubio skipped two votes related to sending the NDAA to a conference committee between the House-passed version and the Senate-passed version of the bill.

Then on Oct. 6, when the conference report came back from the House and Senate together—and the two chambers of Congress agreed on a bill—Rubio skipped the vote on cloture ensuring final passage of the defense bill. On Oct. 7, Rubio skipped another NDAA vote on a measure related to military spending. Rubio also, on Oct. 7, skipped final passage of the final NDAA conference report version that was sent to President Obama’s desk.

Then again on Nov. 10, on another matter related to the NDAA and specifically defense spending levels, Rubio skipped another defense bill vote. Cruz also missed that vote.

All in all, the astonishingly high 18 national security votes on the NDAA defense bill alone that Rubio skipped are far more than anyone else in the U.S. Senate.

Rick Tyler, Cruz’s campaign spokesman, told Breitbart News exclusively when the revelation was discovered that Rubio skipped all these defense bill votes. Tyler said:

Marco Rubio has repeatedly attacked Ted Cruz for not supporting the NDAA, but it turns out Rubio was nowhere to be found when the bill was being debated and passed in the Senate. It’s a huge hypocrisy and an unforgivable deception. He’s not being honest to South Carolina voters. Americans expect you to be there for the fight when the fight is happening. And on issue after issue, from the Second Amendment to marriage to Planned Parenthood to religious liberty, Rubio is nowhere to be found.  The only time he’s ever fought was to pass amnesty. As President, you have to lead the charge, rally the people, use the bully pulpit to get Washington to change. Ted Cruz has done that his entire career.  Rubio has never led anything and now he’s adding dishonesty to his lack of leadership.

What’s perhaps even more astonishing about this is that Rubio’s decision to abandon America’s national security infrastructure to hob nob with high dollar donors and jet set around the United States on the campaign trail hasn’t really produced much success at all for his lagging presidential campaign. Rubio came in a distant third place in Iowa’s caucuses, an embarrassing fifth place in New Hampshire’s primaries, and is expected to come in third place or lower in this Saturday’s South Carolina primaries here.

A new CNN poll out Wednesday shows Rubio in a distant second place in Nevada—where he actually spent several years living as a kid and has spent an inordinate amount of time and resources campaigning—to a commanding lead held by Donald Trump there. Cruz is nipping at Rubio’s heels in Nevada, too.

Rubio’s campaign spokesman Alex Conant has not responded to a request for an explanation of why Sen. Rubio abandoned the nation’s defense infrastructure in 2015.

But this response from Cruz to Rubio is about as devastating as there could be–and it also seems to undermine an attack Rubio has consistently leveled against Cruz. 

“Every single time that there has been a defense bill in the Senate, three people team up to vote against it: Bernie Sanders, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz,” Rubio said as he attacked Cruz in the Charleston, S.C. debate back in mid-January.

To make matters even more interesting, though–and to add insult to injury–when Rubio skipped the omnibus spending bill vote, which he said he opposed but there’s no way to know for sure because he didn’t show up, he said that not showing up to vote was akin to voting against legislation.

“In essence, not voting for it is a vote against it, although my position in it is clear, because they needed my vote to get it passed to get to 60 votes because of the Senate rules,” Rubio said in a CBS News interview in late 2015.

Under that logic according to Sen. Rubio, Sen. Rubio voted against the NDAA–meaning he opposed the defense bill that he’s attacking Cruz for opposing–because he didn’t show up to support final passage of the conference report to send it to the president’s desk.


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