What Have the 2016 GOP Hopefuls Done in the Senate?

WASHINGTON – Sen. Marco Rubio has filed legislation to repeal gun control laws he considers too restrictive -- not in his native Florida but specifically in Washington, D.C., despite overwhelming support for the statutes by residents of the nation’s capital.

“In order to achieve the American dream, people need to be able to live in safe communities and be able to protect themselves, their families and their properties from danger,” Rubio said. “The lawful exercise of the Second Amendment is part of what makes this possible. For years, the District of Columbia has infringed on its residents’ Second Amendment rights and rendered them vulnerable to criminals who could care less what the gun laws are.”

While gun laws are popular in some jurisdictions, they are anathema to most Republican voters. Rubio’s sudden interest in protecting the gun rights of the district’s residents might just have something to do with his expressed interest in running for president of the United States, an ambition that will require the backing of various GOP constituencies.

Rubio isn’t the only member of the upper chamber taking a serious look at seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2016 – far from it. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) have already announced their intentions. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) likewise is seriously considering popping in, and there’s no telling who might wake up one morning soon and see the specter of the next White House resident staring back at him or her in the bathroom mirror.

The four – Rubio, Cruz, Paul and Graham – have all filed legislation during the 114th Congress. None of the bills are likely to cause massive angina among Republican voters. In fact, it’s safe to say, many of the bills likely will curry favor.

Rubio, for instance, is listed as the prime sponsor on 54 bills and amendments filed since the session began in January – 31 of which were simply proposed changes to the Senate budget bill that passed in late March.

Several of them had direct bearing on Florida – like deauthorizing the Ten Mile Creek Water Preserve Area Critical Restoration Project. Others carry national consequence. The Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act, which carries 22 co-sponsors, all Republicans, prohibits transporting a minor child across a state line to obtain an abortion without the consent of a parent.

The Bringing Terrorists to Justice Act of 2015 updates the State Department’s Rewards for Justice Program, offering rewards of up to $5 million for information on the kidnapping and murder of journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, and American aid workers Abdul-Rahman Kassig and Kayla Mueller. To prepare for unknown future circumstances, the bill would also authorize up to $5 million for information on the kidnapping and murder of any other U.S. citizen by a foreign terrorist organization.

As with many Republican lawmakers, Rubio has an anti-Obamacare bill up his sleeve. The Obamacare Taxpayer Bailout Prevention Act would eliminate a provision in the Affordable Care Act that permits bailouts of insurance companies at the sole discretion of the Obama administration.

“One of the biggest threats to the American Dream is the rising cost of living, which ObamaCare is making worse through rising health care costs and loss of coverage,” Rubio said. “Taxpayers should not have to fund massive bailouts to protect the profits of the insurance companies that helped write Obamacare, which is why I’ve been fighting for over a year to protect taxpayers from yet another bailout that puts them on the hook for Washington’s mistakes.”

In establishing that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker isn’t the only potential Republican presidential candidate willing to take on organized labor, Rubio introduced the Rewarding Achievement and Incentivizing Successful Employees (RAISE) Act, which allows employers to give merit-based compensation increases to individual employees, even if those increases are not part of a collective bargaining agreement.

By the way, the term “American Dream” -- a catchphrase sure to be used in any presidential campaign -- appears constantly in Rubio’s rhetoric when discussing his legislation.

“Helping people achieve the American Dream means providing them with the skills and opportunities that lead to better pay in better jobs,” Rubio said. “When America’s workers earn a raise because of their hard work, union bosses should not be able to block it as labor policy currently allows. The RAISE Act would bring greater fairness and opportunity to the modern workplace by giving American workers the freedom to earn more money for a job well done.”

And, in another pro-gun bill, Rubio offered the Firearms Manufacturers and Dealers Protection Act of 2015, an effort to terminate Operation Choke Point, a partnership between the Department of Justice and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation that involves investigating banks that do business with merchants involved in high-risk activities, like gun sellers.

And there is the Educational Opportunities Act, which expands school choice by allowing individuals and businesses to contribute to qualified organizations that award need-based scholarships to students to defray the cost of attending private schools. The bill creates an individual federal tax credit of up to $4,500 and a corporate credit of up to $100,000 for donations to qualifying, non-profit SGOs.

“It is shameful that the only parents in our country who don’t have choice regarding their children’s education are parents living in poverty,” Rubio said. “This bill will ensure every parent and child has access to a school that best suits their learning needs where they can thrive and go on to become America’s future leaders.”

Cruz, meanwhile, has been a bit less active, offering 26 pieces of legislation in 2015, 10 of which were amendments to the budget bill. One of his primary targets has been Obamacare.