It’s certainly a reminder of just how low the bar has been set for Republicans when the fact that every once in a while one of them does bother to do his or her job and it becomes news, but here we are.
In a strong – some might say brave – departure from his colleagues, Sen. Marco Rubio (yes, the one who just recently got smoked by Donald Trump in the Republican primaries) stood up, walked out to the floor of the senate, cleared his throat, and told his own political party to stop being obstructionist assholes for five minutes and actually solve a potentially devastating crisis. It was a shocking moment. Republicans in 2016 just don’t do that. Party loyalty is everything. And here was Rubio calling them out right to their faces.
They are freaked out about the Zika thing. I don’t know any other term to use. If they are freaked out, then I’m very concerned about it as well,” Rubio said. “And that’s why I do support fully and immediately funding the situation.
The “funding” in question was a request by President Obama to get $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika. The issue was that his fellow Republicans are currently in the process of holding up that money because even something as mundane as providing funding to fight a devastating illness like Zika is “government tyranny” to some in the GOP. This prompted Rubio, whose state of Florida is ground zero for Zika in America, to raise his middle finger to the obstruction his party has become known for.
This is a real threat, and it is not just the tropical states,” Rubio said. “We are going to face the Zika problem in this country this summer and fall.”
“My advice to my colleagues is we’re going to deal with this, and I hope we deal with it at the front end, because not only is it better for our people, it’s better for you,” he added. “You’re going to have to explain to people why it is that we sat around for weeks and did nothing on something of this magnitude.
McConnell must not have gotten the memo. He was still repeating the tired Republican line about their duty to keep government spending down and positioning himself to better be able to blame Democrats when things fell apart. In short, he thought things would be business as usual. Now, thanks to Rubio, he looks like the political hack that he is.
Before we give too much credit to Rubio, it’s worth noting that he still suffers from the usual hypocrisies that afflict his party. Being from Florida means Rubio will soon face the devastating effects of Zika in a way other states might not for a while. This means he wants federal funding because he personally needs federal funding. It’s an open question as to whether he would be so forcefully calling for the spending if it was some other state’s problem. Rubio’s colleague and rival Ted Cruz famously voted against giving money to the victims of Hurricane Sandy and then begged the government to help his own state of Texas when they faced a natural disaster just one year later. Everyone is small government until they need something, or so the saying goes.
Still, Rubio’s “betrayal” to his party’s line of obstruction, can be seen as a sign that even the obstructionists themselves think this strategy is unsustainable. It’s probably no coincidence that on the same day that Rubio decided to speak out, a major poll was released that found the Republican Party is at its most hated in 25 years. Clearly folding their arms and yelling “no” at every opportunity hasn’t impressed voters. Maybe it’s time they took a new approach.
Featured image via Scott Eisen/Getty Images