Democrats are hoping GOP Sen. Marco Rubio can help win over the seven Republicans needed to beat back a second filibuster of the nomination of Mari Carmen Aponte to be ambassador to El Salvador.
“Rubio’s opposition was never based on her personally,” the spokesman said.
After reaching the agreement with the White House, Rubio wrote to the State Department on Dec. 17, notifying it that he “is no longer opposed to Ms. Aponte’s nomination to be U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador.”
Democrats cast the move as an effort to limit political damage in Florida. Puerto Ricans are a key voting constituency in Florida, and Aponte is of Puerto Rican decent.
A spokesman for Rubio at the time disputed that characterization and said his support simply stemmed from an agreement struck with the White House on the Nicaragua election.
Agreement in hand, Rubio urged Reid to bring up the Aponte nomination again in late December because he said he had secured the seven votes needed to overcome the filibuster.
“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 at the time.
Senate Democrats contend Rubio is seeking a do-over vote after feeling the heat from his constituents. They also questioned the seven votes that Rubio said he had wrangled.
The main opposition to Aponte came from Sen. Jim 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. The endorsement helped Rubio win — something that some analysts have speculated played into Rubio’s decision to oppose Aponte.
DeMint opposed Aponte, who was the United States’ Salvadoran ambassador after receiving a recess appointment last year, which expired at the end of December, because of an op-ed she wrote in El Diario de Hoy that he believed to be pro-gay rights and anti-family.
DeMint noted that the Aponte article riled conservatives in El Salvador, who formed a coalition urging the Senate to reject her nomination.
Democrats would also need to get Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.), who voted with Republicans against the nomination, to switch his vote this time around.