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Mack bashes LeMieux for differing with Rubio over RESTORE Act

Posted May 2, 2012 by William March

Updated May 2, 2012 at 07:12 PM

Rep. Connie Mack has pounced on a statement by GOP Senate primary opponent George LeMieux that he would have voted for the RESTORE Act, differing with Sen. Marco Rubio, who voted against it.

The issue is complex and ironic, particularly considering that Rubio initially was a sponsor of the RESTORE Act, intended to make sure that most of the fines paid by the BP for its Gulf oil spill go to restoration of Gulf waters. One of his co-sponsors was Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson, who will face the winner of the LeMieux-Mack primary in the November election.

Rubio switched because of changes to the initial version that he found unacceptable, voting no on March 8. He ended up being the only senator from a Gulf Coast state to vote against the bill.

The result: Democrats Tuesday bashed Rubio for voting against the bill, while Mack bashed LeMieux for saying he’d have voted for it.

The background: The BP fine money, which could reach $20 billion, normally would go to the U.S. Treasury with no restrictions on how it’s used, but the RESTORE Act, proposed last year, said 80 percent must go to Gulf restoration. It was a bipartisan proposal with broad support among states bordering the Gulf.

But an amendment was added to the bill in September creating a a new National Endowment for the Oceans, Coasts, and Great Lakes, to be funded with part of the interest from the fines.

In addition, language was added to the bill to boost funding for a federal land preservation program.

New spending in the Restore Act, estimated by the Congressional Budget Office at about $1.2 billion by 2021, would be offset by delaying a tax break for investment interest—which Grover Norquest of Americans for Tax Reform branded a tax increase, unacceptable to members of Congress who have signed his group’s no-tax-increase pledge.

In an interview on a Pensacola radio station Monday, LeMieux was asked about the bill and about Rubio’s opposition to it. He replied, “In all due respect to Marco, I know he’s a lot closer to it than I was. … Those dollars need to come to the Gulf Coast. In general it’s a good bill and I would have supported it.”

State Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith in a news conference call Tuesday said Rubio’s vote was “an appalling display of partisanship over policy,” voting against the interests of his constituents to avoid violating the Norquist pledge.

Meanhile, the Mack campaign issued a statement saying Rubio was right and LeMieux wrong.

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