Rubio defends legislative accomplishments

Story highlights

  • Rubio, under sharp criticism from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, downplayed Rick Santorum's inability to name a single legislative accomplishment of his
  • "The reality of it is the American Dream is still alive. It is still healthy. We need a president who helps us get there and that guy is Marco Rubio," Scott said

Washington (CNN)Sen. Marco Rubio is defending his record in Congress after Rick Santorum, now a Rubio backer, struggled to name any legislative accomplishments by the Florida senator.

Rubio, under sharp criticism from former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, downplayed Santorum's inability to name a single legislative accomplishment of his.
"Let's be fair to Rick. I mean, he has spent the past year and a half running for president and his campaign, and he just endorsed us last night," Rubio told reporters in Manchester on Thursday.
Rubio then vaguely said he had "real achievements," and repeated his arguments that he's shown "better judgment" on national security issues than his rivals.
Earlier Thursday, Santorum, who ended his presidential campaign earlier this week after fairing poorly in the Iowa caucuses, said "it's hard" to name a significant accomplishment that Rubio has had in the Senate. He did say that Rubio has "tremendous potential and gifts."
"If you look at being a minority in the United States Senate in four years where nothing got done, I guess it's hard to say that there are accomplishments when nothing was done," Santorum said on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." "Tell me what happened in those four years that was an accomplishment for anybody."
"He spent four years in the United States Senate being frustrated like everybody else that nothing got done and then you can't point to him and say well nothing got done therefore he has no accomplishments," Santorum added.
By early Thursday night, the Christie campaign had cut an ad, called "It's A Simple Question," attacking Rubio with Santorum's own words.
The former Pennsylvania senator responded hours later on Twitter, writing that he was "disappointed in @ChrisChristie. Taking my words completely out of context. Expected so much more from my friend."
Asked later why Santorum couldn't name a legislative accomplishment, Rubio then pointed to a veterans affairs measure, sanctions on Hezbollah, killing an Obamacare provision and a measure to prevent human trafficking. The veterans measure was slipped into a larger bill that passed Congress in 2014; the Hezbollah sanctions bill and human trafficking measure each passed with no opposition in the Senate.
And his role in pushing to kill the Obamacare provision, which let the government provide a key backstop for insurance companies, has been the subject of sharp dispute. On the campaign trail, Rubio takes credit for legislation that was included in a 2015 spending bill gutting the so-called risk corridors provision.
While Rubio was on the forefront calling for changes to the provision in the past, it was ultimately other GOP negotiators who slipped the measure into the spending bill -- not Rubio himself.
Asked by CNN Thursday how he could take credit for that, Rubio said, "I led the effort to put that in. I was the first one to bring it up. I was the one who pushed forward for two and a half years. ... Did I type it on my computer? No. But did I actually get it done? Absolutely."
But South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, who also endorsed Rubio earlier this week, said the Florida senator is the candidate best prepared to lead the country.
Rubio's life story has given him "real ideas" to help the least privileged in society, Scott said Thursday on CNN's "New Day."
"He inspires a new generation of voters. Here's a guy who has a wonderful life story, but who also knows how to create a political agenda based on the reality that so many people are suffering through," he said. "Folks who are stuck and mired in poverty can look to the leadership of Marco Rubio to help solve some of the challenges that we haven't been able to solve in 50 years."
Scott said Rubio, the son of a bartender who immigrated from Cuba, is the candidate best positioned to help working-class Americans fulfill their goals. Scott mentioned growing up in poverty and being attracted to Rubio's ideas to help more Americans ascend to the middle class.
"The reality of it is the American Dream is still alive. It is still healthy. We need a president who helps us get there and that guy is Marco Rubio," he said.