Senator Marco Rubio is, seemingly, full of surprises. Having been elected by a largely conservative and Tea Party base, the Florida Republican has maintained fairly bonafide conservative credentials but has, in recent months, alienated some conservatives who have taken issue with his immigration stance.
As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee debated military action in Syria, Sen. Rubio, who has pushed for intervention in Syria, has noted that help at this point will have come too late. Rubio voted against military intervention on Wednesday, surprising many.
Sen. Rubio has some fences to mend with conservatives and Tea Party groups that have taken issue with his participation in the Gang of Eight immigration bill. Still, Rubio has maintained a practical appeal, claiming that to do something is better than doing nothing. Rubio has also made efforts to explain his position to Tea Party groups and even spoke at the Senate Tea Party Caucus Forum last month.
Senator Rubio’s stance on Syria is illustrative of his commitment to the grassroots support that propelled him into office. While the Obama Administration attempts to rally support for military action in Syria, the American people have largely rejected the proposal. A Pew Research poll found that Americans disagreed with American intervention by a margin of 49% to 29%. Other polls vary wildly with some indicating that as much as 79% of the American population wants no military intervention.
This lack of support for military intervention in Syria is most acutely seen in conservative circles who have questioned the need for military, rather than humanitarian, intervention in Syria. Further, many conservatives have voiced concern over the apparent lack of American national security interests and the links Syrian rebels have with terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and the Al Nusra Front.
Rubio offered his vote with clarifying remarks and stated,
“While I have long argued forcefully for engagement in empowering the Syrian people, I have never supported the use of U.S. military force in the conflict. And I still don’t. I remain unconvinced that the use of force proposed here will work. The only thing that will prevent Assad from using chemical weapons in the future is for the Syrian people to remove him from power.”
Rubio was also quick to note that his lack of support for military intervention in Syria does not mean an endorsement of pure American isolationist policies. Rubio qualified,
“Let me close by recognizing that there is a movement afoot in both parties to disengage the United States from issues throughout the world. It is true, we cannot solve every crisis on the planet. But if we follow the advice of those who seek to disengage us from global issues, in the long run we will pay a terrible price.”
Rubio’s stance puts him in the company of other likely GOP presidential contenders as Sens. Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who have noted their opposition to intervention.
While Sens. Cruz and Paul may have acquired more libertarian-leaning supporters, Sen. Rubio has carved a niche as a conservative who is willing to serve as a link between the powerful conservative grassroots efforts and the seemingly-detached Republican establishment.
Rubio’s vote on Syria puts him in like company with many of his Republican colleagues, but also signals a willingness to represent the interests of grassroots conservatives who have remained vocal in their opposition to America’s intervention in Syria.