Marco Rubio flakes out again

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has tried to impress conservative hawks and serious Republicans of all stripes with his policy expertise. But at crucial junctures, he resorts to moves that can be seen onlyas pandering to the far right. In doing so, he makes his own record identical to that of Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

It happened on the vote to authorize the use of force in Syria (Rubio voted no) and on the shutdown (Rubio was among the shutdown squad). He seemed to recover his bearings with strong statements on Russia and Ukraine.

But today he postured once again, saying he’d vote against the Ukraine aid bill before the Senate because it includes funding for the International Monetary Fund, which conservatives want to reform. Opponents claim that this is new funding, not simply leftovers from the previous year, but a committee minority aide is emphatic: “This claim is false. … These rescissions come from programs under accounts that were canceled or under executing and slated for cancellation, and if not rescinded they will expire at the end of the fiscal year.”

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) (Washington Post)
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) (Washington Post)

Josh Rogin of The Daily Beast reports: “Committee member Marco Rubio said in a Wednesday statement that the IMF funding was harming the bill and that he would oppose the legislation if it included the IMF provisions, which he sees as ‘Russia[n]-backed.’ ‘This legislation is supposed to be about assisting Ukraine and punishing Russia, and the IMF measure completely undercuts both of these goals by giving Putin’s Russia something it wants,’ Rubio said in a statement.”

Well, this is precisely how the legislative process works — you engage in some trade-offs to get something really, really important. His allegations about the IMF are simply incorrect. (Dan Runde has a thorough analysis of the IMF voting system and needed reform as well as a debunking of the notion that the Senate bill would lead to the U.S.’s loss of the IMF; the bottom line: The IMF reforms can be added to the bill, and to keep Ukraine from going down the tubes “an IMF package [must be] part of stabilizing Ukraine.”)

Moreover, the notion that Russia is behind this is, well, Rand Paul-like. The money is to be used (however inefficiently) to prevent Ukraine from sinking; this is a “Russian” plot only in Rubio’s imagination.

The bill is likely to pass the Senate on Democratic votes and then stall in the House over the IMF provision. But for now, this is the sole vehicle for aiding Ukraine, a cause Rubio has sounded passionate about, and helping it defend itself against Russian aggression. So what is going on?

For starters, this is pure posturing. Rubio’s chief of staff, Cesar Conda, tells Right Turn, “He is in Miami today for jury duty and did not vote.” Oh well then, it’s simply a statement of his desire to be inconsistent on his principles? Rubio’s spokesman Alex Conant insists, “I think it’s pretty clear he wants to deliver aid to Ukraine & don’t understand why you would question that – I literally don’t think anyone in Washington has been more vocal about the situation there.”

But for that very reason, couldn’t Rubio support the bill (if he had been in town) and fix the IMF later? This would be like holding up critical anti-missile defense because the president insists on some domestic trinket; it keeps one pure — but sacrifices U.S. national security in the bargain. His spokesman replied: “I think you just made the case for why the IMF portion shouldn’t be in this bill. It can be reformed separately or next year.” But Ukraine can’t be saved next year, and right now it can be. Conda argues that “there is the House-passed bill, which Reid could call up at any time and pass through the Senate.” But Dems won’t, so the logic is circular and akin to the government shutdown (if Reid would only pass a budget without Obamacare, we wouldn’t have a shutdown). This is the politics of purity, not of international emergency response.

Rubio’s conduct has dismayed and angered foreign policy hawks who see this as opportunism to cuddle up to the far right. But the senator is hardly going to make inroads with the paranoid anti-internationalists. I confess it makes no sense. It does, however, tell us that he has not been able to re-establish his credibility with the segments of the party that might otherwise support him. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) anyone?

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.
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