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Rubio Backhands Bush, Media Over Missed Votes

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

After a month of defending missed votes, Sen. Marco Rubio easily swatted away criticism from fellow Floridian Jeb Bush at Wednesday's Republican presidential debate.  

The battle came just hours after a Florida paper called for the first-term senator to vote more regularly or resign . When a debate moderator asked if he hated his job as the Sun-Sentinel editorial board suggested, Rubio wrote it off as liberal-media hypocrisy, noting that the paper didn't demand the resignation of Democratic senators who ran for president in previous cycles. "I read that editorial today with great amusement," Rubio said. "It's actually evidence of the bias that exists in the American media."  

Rubio's missed votes have received attention recently. But it's a common trait for senators seeking the presidency, which Rubio defenders often point out, saying he gets singled out.  

According to CQ Vote Watch , Rubio has voted 66 percent of the time this year — the lowest rate in the Senate. Rubio noted that former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., voted 67.5 percent of the time in 2003 while running for president and without being asked to resign by the Sun-Sentinel.  

Rubio also questioned the vote participation records of two other former Democratic senators who chose campaigning over voting: John Kerry of Massachusetts and Barack Obama of Illinois. In 2003, Kerry voted 36 percent of the time, while Obama voted 62.4 percent of the time in 2007.  

Bush interrupted Rubio and said that as a Florida voter, he expected Rubio would show up to work, and that with the short Senate work week — generally Monday nights through Thursday afternoons — Rubio has plenty of time to campaign and vote.  

"Marco, when you signed up for this, this was a six-year term," Bush said. "And you should be showing up to work. I mean literally, the Senate, what is it? Like a French work week? You get like three days where you have to show up? You can campaign. Or just resign and let someone else take the job."  

Rubio fired back that while Bush was hoping to have a campaign comeback akin to Sen. John McCain's path to the 2008 GOP nomination, Bush was overlooking the Arizona Republican's 44.3 percent vote participation in 2007.  

"You know how many votes John McCain missed when he was carrying out that furious comeback that you're now modeling," Rubio asked.  

"He wasn't my senator," Bush replied.  

"I don't remember you ever complaining about John McCain's vote record," Rubio said. "The only reason why you're doing it now is because we're running for the same position and someone has convinced you that attacking me is going to help you."  

Related: Rubio Yields Time in the Senate on the Presidential Trail Florida Newspaper to Rubio: Vote or Resign Rubio Leads the Field in One Category: Missed Votes Marco Rubio's Long Senate Goodbye See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call's new video site. Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.