Presidential race dominates opening of Rubio-Murphy debate

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio questioned the effectiveness of his Democratic challenger in Congress, while U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy said his Republican opponent had “one foot out the door” on his way to a second run for the White House during their first face-to-face debate Monday.

The debate covered immigration reform, abortion, the Orlando nightclub shooting and climate change. Under questioning from Murphy, Rubio promised he would serve a full term in the U.S. Senate. Rubio ran for the GOP presidential nomination before losing to Republican nominee Donald Trump.

“I will serve six years in the United States Senate, God-willing, and I’m looking forward to it,” Rubio said.

The debate started out as a referendum on the presidential candidates, with Rubio and Murphy each questioning the other about their support for the presidential nominees of their parties.

Murphy defended former U.S. Secretary Hillary Clinton when asked why Floridians should trust him when they don’t trust Clinton, who he is backing. He chastised Rubio for not dropping his support for Trump, as some Republicans did after a video surfaced of the New York businessman talking about sexually touching women without their permission.

Rubio said he doesn’t trust either candidate but he’s asking voters to send him back to Washington so he can stand up to the next president, whether it’s Trump or Clinton.

“If you can’t stand up to Donald Trump as a candidate, how do you expect to stand up to him as president?” Murphy asked Rubio.

Rubio, who ran against Trump in the 2016 Republic primary, said he was the only person on the stage who has tried to stop Trump.

“I’ve condemned him when he has said things that are aggressive, outrageous, vulgar and inappropriate, and I will continue to do so,” Rubio said.

Rubio said he worried about Clinton redefining the U.S. Supreme Court.

When asked about why he no longer supporter comprehensive immigration reform, Rubio said no legislation can be expected to pass unless Americans are assured their borders are secure, and the immigration system is modernized and streamlined.

Murphy accused Rubio of flip-flopping on the issue, but Rubio shot back that Murphy only became interested in immigration “four weeks ago” and said Murphy supported a Homeland Security bill that would have started deportation for workers who had entered the United States without legal permission before age 16.

When asked about President Barack Obama’s health care law, Rubio likened it to the Titanic. He said he supports a plan to replace the health care law that would offer tax-free money from their employer to buy health insurance and those without it would have refundable tax credit to buy health insurance.

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