WASHINGTON (MEDIA GENERAL) – On the campaign trail, Marco Rubio is a top-tier presidential candidate. But when he steps onto the Senate floor, he’s still treated as a likable newbie.
Eager to improve his absentee lawmaker reputation, the Florida freshman returned to Washington on Wednesday to vote in favor of the SAFE Act, which would temporarily stop the flow of Syrian refugees.
While the bill failed, Rubio succeeded on two fronts: showing up and appearing attentive on national security matters.
The 44-year-old senator made the most of his Senate visit, arriving early and staying late to schmooze colleagues who could become effective surrogates as 2016’s state-by-state delegate fight kicks off.
On the floor, Rubio was greeted warmly and got some good-natured ribbing.
Wearing a dark suit and brownish plum tie, Rubio held court with rotating groups of — mostly Republican — senators.
Laughing about Rubio’s now famous high-heeled boots, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, Republicans’ No. 2 leader, hiked up his suit pants to reveal a pair of authentic black cowboy boots. Rubio, smiling, followed suit, showing his sober choice of standard black dress shoes.
Sen. Chuck Grassley pulled Rubio aside to check the weather app on the Iowa senator’s iPhone, presumably in preparation of Washington’s impending weekend snowstorm and to monitor conditions leading up to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation primary on February 1.
“Ready for snow?!” Rubio shouted to three Senate pages, sitting on the steps of the dais. They all nodded back eagerly.
Minutes later, Rubio walked up to Sens. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) and Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and was welcomed with the question, “Where you been?” The men roared, slapping the young senator on the back and catching up with each other.
Squeezing by the group, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) playfully fretted loudly, “I hate to interrupt a presidential candidate.”
No apologies needed. Rubio is clearly among friends in the nation’s Capitol.
While previous reports claim Rubio “hates” serving in Congress, he seems to enjoy himself during social hour in the Senate well.
Fellow 2016 GOP candidates Ted Cruz and Rand Paul traveled back for the vote, sweeping in and out of the chamber in approximately 60 seconds.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) skipped Wednesday’s vote.
Follow Chance Seales on Twitter at @ChanceSeales.