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Rubio Silence: Waiting for His Maiden Speech

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Among the 13 Senators sworn in last January, Sen. Marco Rubio is the only one who has yet to speak on the floor.

Among the 13 Senators sworn in last January, Sen. Marco Rubio is the only one who has yet to speak on the floor.

The Florida Republican says he’s just waiting for the right moment for his maiden speech, which his staff suggested could be quite soon. 

“It’s the issues that will ultimately draw him out to speak,” Rubio spokesman Alex Burgos said. “When he says something, it will be because he has something to say. It’s not a matter of checking a box.”

As a high-profile Republican Latino, Rubio has more to lose than some of his freshman classmates. He came to the Senate with high expectations from the 2010 campaign, when he was staunchly supported by conservative kingpin Sen. Jim DeMint (S.C.), and he has been recently mentioned in the mix of 2012 vice presidential picks.

Many of Rubio’s colleagues gave their maiden speeches fairly quickly. Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) spoke in early February, less than a month after they were sworn in. Seven other freshman Senators spoke in March, and three in April. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), who was sworn in earlier this week, has not yet spoken.

When Rubio does make his debut on the Senate floor, Burgos said the Senator’s maiden speech will likely pertain to the debt ceiling. So far, much of the Senate debate has centered on government spending in the next six months and not the debt crisis over the next six years.

“Now as we reach a stage in this Senate term where the focus increasingly turns to the debt ceiling debate, that is a conversation that Sen. Rubio definitely wants to be a part of,” Burgos said.

Political observers say the wait is in keeping with Rubio’s overall political strategy of keeping his head down.

“The maiden speech is the speech that commands the most attention,” GOP strategist Doug Heye said. “My sense is that he wants to make sure when he does so, it’s on these important issues, so when he does weigh in, it carries more weight.”

In a way, Rubio’s five-month wait is a throwback to earlier times in the Senate.

A century ago, freshman lawmakers were expected to open their mouths only to vote or take a drink for their first three years in office, according to Senate Historian Don Ritchie.

Ritchie said freshman Members believed that by showing humility and remaining silent until they had learned the ropes of the chamber, they would earn the respect of senior Senators.

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