What arguably had been the quietest dispute in Washington, D.C., ramped up a bit today when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid challenged freshman Sen. Marco Rubio’s political approach and questioned his constituency.
The Florida Republican obviously has rankled the Nevada Democrat with his tack of fighting President Barack Obama’s policy on Latin America by blocking diplomatic appointments, Politico reports. The Spanish-language media generally have been the only ones covering the spat.
The dust-up started last year, when Rubio challenged the White House on its selection of Mari Carmen Aponte for ambassador to El Salvador. He acted to force the State Department to take a stronger stance against authoritarian regimes in Nicaragua and Cuba.
After voting against Aponte twice, Rubio ultimately supported her confirmation in December amid pressure from Hispanic groups. Rubio compromised because the White House produced a new statement in January stating that the Sandinista government in Nicaragua may have cheated in recent elections, Rubio spokesman Alex Conant told Politico.
“I never had any objection to Mari Carmen,” Rubio himself told Politico. “I was always about the administration’s lack of interest in defending democracy in Nicaragua.”
The Senate ultimately failed to confirm her.
“When we made progress on that [Nicaragua], I kept my word and lined up the votes for her,” he said. “But they didn’t keep their word. Everything is about politics with this White House. They decided to sacrifice her nomination in order to try to score political points.”
Rubio, an oft-mentioned potential Republican vice-presidential candidate, now is blocking the confirmation of Roberta Jacobson as assistant secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere.
Reid slighted the Cuban-American Rubio, telling Politico, “In Nevada, Aponte is seen by the Puerto Rican community, the Hispanic community, as really somebody who is an up-and-rising star . . . I just think it’s a mistake for someone who is supposedly representing Hispanic issues to do what [Rubio] has done.”
When BuzzFeed asked Rubio spokesman Alex Conant how he views Reid’s contention that Rubio should be representing Hispanic issues, Conant replied simply: "Senator Rubio represents Florida."