marco rubio taxes, iran, education
U.S. Presidential candidate and Republican Senator of Florida Marco Rubio speaks at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's forum in Waukee, Iowa, April 25, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young

It’s been a busy week for presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida). He introduced a poison pill amendment on the Republican bill aimed at micromanaging White House negotiation with Iran, signed the Grover Norquist no-new-taxes pledge, and got outed as a supporter of of an embattled for-profit college. We’ve already written about Rubio’s immigration views, chances on winning the Latino vote and his relatively nuanced comments on gay marriage. Stories from this week have further advanced the public’s knowledge of Rubio’s foreign policy style, tax stance and vision for education reform, so let’s take a look.


The U.S. Senate was already wandering into uncharted territory when it decided to give itself veto power over the White House deal to de-arm Iran. After 18 months and many sleepless nights, U.S. State Department negotiators had forged a delicate deal with Iran and other nations. In exchange for dropping crippling trade sanctions, Iran will submit to intrusive monitoring of it’s nuclear program. Senators unhappy with the deal banded together to pass a veto-proof bill that would allow them to review the Administration’s final deal.

Rubio micromanaged the micromanagers this week when he proposed multiple amendments to the bill that would likely make it impossible to Iran to sign a deal. Chief among them is a requirement that Iran publicly recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. An increasing number of U.S. allies in Europe probably wouldn't agree with that statement, let alone a conservative Islamic Republic who’s threatened to wipe Israel off of the map.

President Obama argued that Rubio and his few Republican allies are putting the cart before the horse. Left-leaning pundits called Rubio’s amendment a campaign stunt, with some saying it was specifically intended to win the support of billionaire backer, Sheldon Adelson. Rubio insisted that his amendment was not a stunt, but serious piece of lawmaking.

“This is not a game,” Mr. Rubio said. “This is a very serious matter.” He added, “We have a right to have these issues debated. If you don’t want to vote on things, don’t run for the Senate.”

Conservative politicians lashed out at Rubio’s amendments as well, with more than than one arguing that the move was ultimately a loss for Israel. Even AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby that opposes Obama’s deal called on the senate to quash Rubio’s amendments. That gave ammunition Senators like Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) to knock Rubio’s amendments, without looking unfriendly to Israel.

“The outside groups are validating what I’m saying: that this would be counterproductive to Israel. It would actually hurt Israel because it would make it give us less of a chance to get a nuclear agreement with Iran that would prevent them from becoming a nuclear weapons state, which is critically important to Israel,” Sen. Cardin said. “Sen. Rubio, I know, wants this bill to hit the finish line. So, I hope he would work with us.”


Marco Rubio also took the Americans for Tax Reform pledge this week, for the third time in his political careen. Also known as the Grover Norquist pledge, for the man who first popularized it among Republican candidates in 1989, it promises constituents not to raise taxes. specifically to “ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”

Plenty of articles have pointed out that Rubio has already broken the pledge many times. As a state legislator, he supported a surcharge on rental cars and higher property taxes for schools. Others pointed out that Rubio wouldn’t be a leader on tax reform, and would likely pass off legislation writing to the Republican caucus, a Forbes columnist argued. Still, the pledge won him a key endorsement.

“By signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to the American people, Senator Rubio continues to protect American taxpayers against higher taxes,” Norquist said.


“There are millions of good-paying jobs out there and we should allow people to have access to skills they need in a cost-effective way, Marco Rubio said in campaign speech in February. “In the 21st century some of the best jobs require more than high school–traditional high school–but less than four years of college.

“We shouldn’t be stigmatizing those vocational careers. We should be graduating more people from high school ready to work as plumbers, electricians, welders, machinists, BMW technicians, you name it. We have too many people graduating with a four-year degree that doesn’t lead to jobs. And they owe tens of thousands of dollars.”

In most ways, Rubio’s education plan is just like Obama’s. Yet Rubio seems to be taking two-year colleges on as a top priority. The way he articulates the need for vocational training in a modern economy fits his image of a young modernizer, a theme that he extends into other areas of his platform, like immigration and tax reform. He’s also called for student bill of rights that would require schools to disclose how much students can expect to make with a particular degree.

Rubio lost face this week when it was revealed that he lobbied on behalf of a Corinthian Colleges, for-profit franchise of vocational schools that’s been charged with extensive fraud and misrepresentation. In an investigation by the Dept. of Education, officials found that the school lied about it’s post-graduation placement rates. The department fined Corinthian $30 million dollars, causing it to close down and leave 16,000 students in debt and without a degree.

“Instead of providing clear and accurate information to help students choose which college to attend, Corinthian violated students' and taxpayers' trust,” U.S. Under Secretary of Education Ted Mitchell said in a statement. “Their substantial misrepresentations evidence a blatant disregard not just for professional standards, but for students' futures.”

It was also revealed that a previous campaign of his had received campaign contributions from the same company. In his letter to the Dept. of Education, Rubio questioned the decision to rescind Corinthian’s access to federal funding. Now, voters might be questioning Rubio’s positions on for-profit colleges. For example, he supports the deregulation of college accreditation, and a bill that would allow states to route federal financial aid money to those schools. As if for-profit colleges weren’t deregulated enough.

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