“The only reason Aponte is coming home is because Sen. Reid refused to schedule a vote after Sen. Rubio had succeeded in changing administration policy and succeeded in securing the necessary Republican votes,” the spokesman said.
Senate Democrats contend Rubio is seeking a do-over vote after feeling the heat from his constituents. They also questioned the seven votes Rubio said he had wrangled.
“Senate procedure will only give us one more shot at Aponte’s nomination, so we cannot go based on a shaky whip list and we can’t be chasing shadows. Sen. Rubio voted against her, and it is his responsibility to get the votes on his side of the aisle,” a Senate Democratic leadership aide said. “If he really wanted to be helpful, he should use his influence with [Sen. Jim DeMint], his Senate mentor and top ally, and get him to lift the hold on Aponte.”
The main opposition to Aponte came from DeMint, a conservative who has embraced the tea party. The South Carolina Republican endorsed Rubio early on over the GOP establishment candidate, then-Gov. Charlie Crist, which helped Rubio win.
Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida, said that Rubio’s vote against Aponte seemed to pit his allegiances to Hispanics against his desire to show his conservative bona fides.
“I really do think he was inclined to support the nominee, but he was feeling cross-pressured,” Jewett said.
“I believe that certainly played into it,” he added. “I believe Rubio is trying to support conservative leadership as he was supported by them early on in his race.” Rubio’s spokesman dismissed any ulterior motive for his change in position.
“From the outset, his reasons for opposing her were purely tied to his concerns with the administration’s policies in the Western Hemisphere,” the spokesman said.
In his letter to Wendy R. Sherman, undersecretary of State for political affairs, Rubio cited the “good faith efforts that you have made with regard to my concerns about the recent fraudulent elections in Nicaragua.”
According to Rubio’s spokesman, the Obama administration “agreed to have a stronger reaction to the recent failed elections in Nicaragua, including issuing a statement from the State Department.”
Rubio had previously raised concerns about anti-democratic currents in Nicaragua and, along with Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), introduced a resolution this month supporting the democratic aspirations of the Nicaraguan people and calling attention to the deterioration of constitutional order in the Central American country.
His letter said his opposition remains to the nominations of Roberta S. Jacobson to be assistant secretary of State for Western Hemisphere affairs and Adam E. Namm to be ambassador to Ecuador until the administration adequately scrutinizes its relaxed Cuba travel policy, which Rubio believes allows American tourism that props up a despotic regime.
Rubio’s change of heart also came after Democrats, including Soto on a Tuesday conference call organized by the Democratic National Committee — the day after the Senate’s Aponte vote — cast his opposition as a slight against a key constituency in Florida politics: Puerto Ricans in the I-4 corridor.
“He won a statewide election, he knows the growing strength of the Puerto Rican vote, he knows the volatility and swing nature of that vote,” said Susan MacManus, a political science professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.
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