‘The New Washington’: Once Racing to Flee the Senate, Marco Rubio Now Digs In

New York Times, October 7, 2017

During his run for president, Marco Rubio took plenty of fire for being an absentee senator. He now concedes that his day job might, indeed, have suffered.

As the Florida Republican settles into a second term in a Senate that he once couldn’t leave fast enough, Mr. Rubio is aggressively pursuing his legislative interests in ways he did not while chasing the presidency.

“We just have more time than we perhaps didn’t have the last couple of years when I ran for president,” Mr. Rubio said in an interview for the New York Times podcast “The New Washington.” “We were still doing our job, but you can’t be in two places at once sometimes.”

Mr. Rubio seems determined to shrug off the disappointment of a presidential race that didn’t go his way and show he is serious about the Senate, making up for lost time.

Given his personal ties to Puerto Rico, as well as the substantial Puerto Rican population in his state, Mr. Rubio has been engaged in ensuring that the relief effort there gets on track and stays there. He has flexed his influence on American policy toward Cuba and Venezuela. He has worked with Ivanka Trump, the president’s elder daughter, on a proposal to expand the child tax credit that could become an important element of the coming tax debate. He has helped push to passage a bill to help the Department of Veterans Affairs hold employees more accountable. He was part of a bipartisan group behind a new law directing drug companies to pursue more pediatric cancer treatments. He is an important party voice on immigration.

Whether this is all a prelude to a future presidential run for Mr. Rubio, 46, is hard to gauge. But he attributes his rededication to the Senate to a confluence of factors, including the fact that his party is in power and that, now in his second term in the Senate, he is a little more sure of what he is doing.

“It is true that experience generally makes you better at something, not worse,” Mr. Rubio said. “And so the longer you’re in some place, to a certain extent, the better you can be at it. So I am certainly a better senator today than I was five years ago simply because I’m more familiar with the process. It also doesn’t hurt to have your party in the White House with a lot of people over there that I know.”

Mr. Rubio wasn’t supposed to be here at all. A rising superstar in his party with a personality and background that thrilled donors, Mr. Rubio was in the top tier of Republican presidential hopefuls in 2016. Many in Washington believed he would be the nominee, a candidate who would finally broaden the party’s appeal with Hispanics while holding true conservative credentials.

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