Rubio opens new office, hears from disgruntled tea partiersby Dara Kam | January 10th, 2012
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is back in the (state) Capitol in a new office more than a dozen floors above his old digs in the Speaker’s office this morning, hours before state lawmakers kick off the 2012 legislative session.
Rubio, a Miami native and former House Speaker who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, said he set up shop in the Capitol to stay close to what’s going on in the state.
“There’s no doubt about it. We don’t want to lose touch with the state. From my experience as the speaker and as a legislator, there are a lot of issues that the state is facing that…overlap with federal issues” including the Everglades and the space program, Rubio said. “I think being here is going to allow us to have a person on the ground especially during the legislative session but throughout the year that’s literally just a few doors away from key decision makers at the state level.”
Rubio shook hands with lobbyists, well-wishers and Capitol staffers but also got an earful from a group of tea partiers unhappy with his votes supporting the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that some critics believe gives the federal government the ability to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens accused of terrorism.
Rubio – whose tea party support helped clinched his U.S. Senate victory – argued that the law does not do that.
“I would never have voted for a bill that allows them to detain innocent American citizens in military tribunals. It’s just not true. We looked at that issue back and forth, left and right, up and down. It’s just not true. I would never support it if it did,” Rubio insisted.
But Paul Henry, a Monticello tea party activist and former state trooper, disagreed.
“What Sen. Rubio’s not aware of is this exact language that’s in there,” Henry said later.
One section of the law reads: “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.”
“But that does not prohibit them (from doing it),” Henry said. “I’m not required to drive a car. I could walk.”
Rubio’s votes disappointed some members of the dozens of tea party groups gathering in the Capitol for the session’s opening day, but they insisted they’re not giving up.
“We helped get the Republicans in the House and they still voted for the debt ceiling. We helped get so-called conservatives get elected and they vote for the Patriot Act. I think you are seeing a lot of widespread discouragement of all the energy spent to get to this point and we still have to go back and tell them what being a conservative means,” said Henry Kelley, a Tea Party Network leader from Fort Walton Beach.