Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

PolitiFact Florida | Tampa Bay Times

PolitiFact Florida: Patrick Murphy's attack about Marco Rubio's voting record is accurate

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy wasted no time attacking incumbent Marco Rubio's voting record after handily winning the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

When Rubio challenged Murphy to six debates, the Jupiter Democrat countered that Rubio was more concerned about a future presidential run than serving in the Senate, something he said is proven by the senator's record.

"Sen. Rubio has the worst vote attendance record of any Florida senator in nearly 50 years," Murphy said in a statement Wednesday.

We've already noted that Rubio has had an exceptionally bad voting record among presidential candidates who served in the U.S. Senate, although not necessarily the worst. But where does he stand among Florida senators of years past? We checked the record to see if he had the worst absentee record in almost half a century.

To check this claim, we turned to GovTrack, which keeps a record of votes by members of Congress. Because we're going back "nearly 50 years," we had to look back to at least 1966.

Rubio's overall absentee rate — the percentage of all the votes he's missed during his first term — is 14.5 percent.

That's considerably higher than the 1.7 percent average absentee rate among all senators in the same time period.

His counterpart, Democrat Bill Nelson, has a 2.2 percent absentee rate since 2001, and 3.3 percent since Rubio took office in 2011.

As Murphy's campaign said, the last senator from Florida to exceed Rubio's rate was George Smathers, a Democrat who had a 23.6 percent absentee rate over his 18 years in office.

We'll note there was a significant uptick in missed votes during the end of Smathers' last term, from 1966 onward, which is 50 years ago. He missed 435 of 835 votes, or more than 52 percent, during his final four years. After that, Smathers declined to run for re-election and became a lobbyist.

If we look at the sheer number of missed votes over a similar length of time, Paula Hawkins skipped 245 over six years (Jan. 1, 1981 – Jan. 3, 1987), while Edward Gurney missed 293 (Jan. 3, 1969 – Dec. 31, 1974). Those are both more than Rubio's 234 missed votes. But those two had significantly more votes to miss, so we think the absentee rates carry more weight.

Other presidential candidates who were senators do miss plenty of votes. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who also ran for the 2016 Republican nomination, missed 139 of 321 votes between April 2015 and June 2016, an absentee rate of 43.3 percent. His career rate is 18.1 percent.

In 2008, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois missed 137 out of 213 votes as he ran for president, or 64.3 percent of votes. His career absentee rate was 24.2 percent. In 2004, then-U.S. Sen John Kerry of Massachusetts missed 89.8 percent of votes. His career rate was 7.7 percent.

But back to Floridians: A Rubio spokesman pointed out that Bob Graham, who ran for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, missed about the same number of votes during his campaign as Rubio did.

That was a compelling bit of trivia to check. We found that between April 2015 and March 2016, the months Rubio was on the trail, he missed 157 of 242 votes, a 65 percent absentee rate. (Rubio's campaign clarified that he both declared and ended his campaign in the middle of those months, so his absentee rate then was 53.3 percent.)

Graham missed 149 of 459 votes between January and November 2003, roughly the time he considered and campaigned for the presidency. That's an absentee rate of 32 percent. He underwent heart surgery on Jan. 31 that year, which caused him to miss votes before his official campaign launch on May 6. (Rubio's campaign noted that between May 6 and when Graham dropped out on Oct. 6, Graham's absentee rate was 50.4 percent.)

That overall period also accounted for three-quarters of Graham's missed votes over 18 years in the Senate. Graham routinely spent months without missing a single roll call vote.

Finally, overall voting trends in the U.S. Senate do change. Spessard Holland was a senator for 24 years between 1946 and 1971. GovTrack noted that in that time period, the average absentee rate for his peers was considerably higher — 14.5 percent.

There are plenty of ways to slice the data, but the roll call has been recorded. We rate the statement Mostly True.

Edited for print. Read more fact-checks at PolitiFact.com/florida.

The statement

"Sen. Rubio has the worst vote attendance record of any Florida senator in nearly 50 years."

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, in a statement Wednesday

The ruling

Rubio has the highest absentee rate since George Smathers, who left office in 1969. Some senators missed more votes overall, and his record is largely in line with other presidential candidates from the U.S. Senate. We rate the statement Mostly True.

PolitiFact Florida: Patrick Murphy's attack about Marco Rubio's voting record is accurate 09/04/16 [Last modified: Sunday, September 4, 2016 7:21pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Astros rout Yankees to force Game 7 of AL Championship Series

    Ml

    HOUSTON — Justin Verlander pitched seven shutout innings to outduel Luis Severino for the second time, and the Astros bats came alive in their return home as Houston routed the Yankees 7-1 Friday night and forced a decisive Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

    The Astros’ Brian McCann, who has struggled during the ALCS, breaks a scoreless tie with an RBI double during the fifth inning off Yankees starter Luis Severino.
  2. Review: Faith Hill and Tim McGraw shower love, star power on Tampa's Amalie Arena

    Blogs

    Near the end of their potent new duet Break First, Tim McGraw stopped singing, and let Faith Hill's powerhouse voice take over.

    Faith Hill and Tim McGraw performed at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Oct. 20, 2017.
  3. Senate to take up AUMF debate as Trump defends reaction to Niger attack

    World

    WASHINGTON — The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is taking up a long-awaited debate about authorizing military force against the Islamic State as President Trump comes under unprecedented public scrutiny for his treatment of dead soldiers' families, following an ambush on troops helping to fight Islamic …

  4. In fear and vigilance, a Tampa neighborhood holds its breath

    K12

    TAMPA — There was a time, not long ago, when Wayne Capaz would go for a stroll at night and Christina Rodriguez would shop whenever she wanted. Michael Fuller would go to his night job as a line cook, not too worried about his wife at home.

    More than 50 people gathered and walked in the Southeast Seminole Heights community Friday to pay respects to the victims of three shootings. The crowd took a moment of silence at the corner of 11th Street and East New Orleans where Monica Hoffa was found dead. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  5. Fennelly: What's not to like about Lightning's start?

    Lightning Strikes

    BRANDON — No one is engraving the Stanley Cup. No one has begun stuffing the league MVP ballot box for Nikita Kucherov.

    The Lightning, with a win tonight, would match the best start in franchise history, 7-1-1 in the 2003-04 Cup season.