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Politics

Rubio critical of misconduct by IRS in Tampa speech

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Published:   |   Updated: May 18, 2013 at 11:15 PM
TAMPA -

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio told a crowd of more than 700 Republicans that he takes the recent revelations of misconduct at the Internal Revenue Service personally.

And though he slams the Obama administration for a disastrous past five years and what he says will be the failure of Obamacare in 2014, he doesn't personally dislike Obama.

“The events of the past seven or eight days have really bothered me as they have a lot of people in this country,” said Rubio, who was keynote speaker at the annual Hillsborough County Republican Party's 2013 Lincoln Day Dinner at the Grand Hyatt Hotel Saturday.

He said the current administration has created a culture that leads to abuse of power.

“But I say this with the highest respect possible. I respect the presidency,” Rubio said. “I happen to believe he (Obama) is a good husband, a good father and, I think, a pretty good golfer. I have no quarrel with the man. This is not personal.”

He also offered Republicans an optimistic view of the party's hopes in the 2014 elections, and a history lesson on conservative principles and the uniqueness of America's democracy.

One theme he chose not to address at the dinner was immigration reform though Congressman Dennis Ross in his introduction praised Rubio for taking on the controversial issue.

The theme of this year's dinner was “A Night to Celebrate Freedom.” A reception was held at 6:30 p.m. followed by a dinner at 7:30.

The Obama administration has been dealing with a firestorm of criticism and mounting investigations since the revelation that the Internal Revenue Service targeted tea party groups for unwarranted scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status.

Obama called the misconduct “inexcusable” and vowed to work with Congress to fix the problem. An investigation by the Federal Bureau of Investigation was ordered.

Republicans also have criticized Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for their handling of the terrorist attacks in Benghazi last year. Four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stephens, were killed.

And the U.S. Department of Justice is under fire for secretly obtaining the phone records of Associated Press journalists.

Former acting commissioner Steven T. Miller resigned last week and some are calling for the ouster of Lois Lerner, the head of the agency's tax-exempt division. Miller was grilled Friday by members of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Miller issued an apology but has denied that the tea party and other conservative groups were targeted. He blamed the problem on about 150 to 200 career bureaucrats trying to cope with upward of 70,000 applications a year.

Rubio is in the top tier of potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and newly elected U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas.

His rise to the national political stage has been constant since his win more than two years ago in the U.S. Senate race against Democrat Kendrick Meek and newly minted Democrat and former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist. Crist ran in the senate race as an Independent.

He was vetted for vice president by Mitt Romney and was tapped for the Republican response in January to Obama's State of the Union address.

Rubio endeared himself early to the national tea party movement on issues such as taxes and gun control. But he recently outraged many with his support for an immigration bill that would include a path to legalized status or citizenship potentially for millions of immigrants.

Immigration reform is viewed by some Republicans as essential to win over Hispanic voters who by large margins in the 2012 presidential election voted for Obama.

Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, is looked to as someone who could help attract Hispanic voters to the Republican Party.

In recent days he was quick to capitalize on the IRS revelations.

On the Senate floor he denounced the Obama administration's “culture of intimidation.” He recently introduced a bill to mandate the firing of any IRS employee for willfully violating a taxpayer's constitutional rights.


ksteele@tampatrib.com

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