HH: Pleased to welcome back to the program United States Senator Marco Rubio from the great state of Florida. Senator Rubio, always a pleasure, welcome.
MR: Glad to be with you.
HH: What do you make of the impasse over the debt, and Senator McConnell’s speech today?
MR: Well, I think he’s trying the best he can to put together something that will work. What I make about it is it’s getting messier by the day. You know, you had the President today threatening to hold up Social Security checks now unless he gets his way on this thing, which is, I think in many respects, kind of the way they planned it. I mean, their hope, I think, was to wait this thing out, to a take it or leave it situation, and then try to force everyone into a bad deal. And that’s an old style tactic. The difference is this is not some legislative maneuver. This is, you know, the full faith and credit of the United States. This is an issue regarding the debt. This is an issue regarding our future. This is our country that’s at stake here.
HH: Senator Rubio, you represent a lot of senior citizens in Florida. The country knows that. I think it’s despicable to scare them this way. What’s your reaction to the President’s threat to hold their Social Security checks hostage?
MR: Well, if they don’t get their Social Security checks, it’s because the President’s decided to do that, because we still have revenue coming in. Here’s the other thing I would say. If in fact the President holds up their checks for Social Security, and Medicare, and whatever else he wants to hold up to make his point, isn’t he admitting that all these programs are funded by deficit spending? Isn’t he admitting that all these programs are dependant upon borrowed money? And I think the folks who are on Social Security, people like my mom, would be shocked to learn the truth that the money that they’re receiving in Social Security isn’t the money they worked hard for all these years to put away, the government was going to give back to them in their retirement. The government spent all that money already. They spent it long ago on other things. This is borrowed money. This is money that we’re borrowing from our children and our grandchildren. And I think people are going to, if that happens, I think people are going to be shocked to learn the real truth about what the government’s done with their Social Security money.
HH: Obviously, the President thinks he’s got a rhetorical, political advantage, Senator Rubio, and he said at his press conference yesterday that the American people really don’t understand or pay much attention to this. What’s your assessment of the level of understanding of this debate among the average American?
MR: Well, I think it’s higher than the President gives people credit for. I think people understand this. We have a government that spends money we don’t have, does so at an alarming pace. They understand that we have no jobs in America. The jobs in America, the job situation in America is horrifying, that unemployment today is two percent higher than it was the day Barack Obama took over as president, that all threats of raising taxes, and all these new regulations in this health care bill, have killed job growth. I think people understand that last month, only 18,000 jobs were created in America, which is like saying no jobs were created in America in the private sector. People understand it. And I think they’re increasingly going to begin to understand that this president has mismanaged the economy of the United States in such a way that we are now paying a terrible, terrible price all across the country.
HH: Do you think the negotiations that he had lured Republicans into over the last couple of weeks have been in bad faith?
MR: Well, I wasn’t in those negotiations, so I’d hate to characterize something I wasn’t a part of. Let me say that he was late to the game. First of all, the President, this is not a new issue, okay? This issue of the debt limit didn’t sneak up on us. This has been around for a while. We knew this was coming. And then the President’s done nothing on it. He gave a state of the union speech this year, never mentioned any plans about how to address this. He offered a budget before Congress, and the budget was so bad, I mean, it actually increased the debt. His budget was so bad, so unrealistic, that when we put it to a vote here in the Senate, not even a single Democrat voted for it. That’s how bad it was. It didn’t get a single vote. So he’s had multiple opportunities to deal with this, and he’s kind of punted and moved the ball along, and focused on other things. And now, with three weeks to go, two weeks to go, all of a sudden, he wants to ride in and act like he’s leading. Well, he’s not leading. In fact, what he’s doing is he’s trying to position this as a political issue, so he can claim victory for his 2012 election. But the reality of it is that people know better, they’re going to realize it, we’re going to continue to talk about it.
HH: I’m talking with Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Senator, as we speak, Speaker Boehner is on with Bret Baier on the Fox News Channel, and I’m glad he is. But until today, I haven’t seen him anywhere, and I haven’t seen the House leadership very many places. Of course, they’ve got the lead, because they’ve got the majority. Generally speaking, or specifically, if you’d care, how bad is the Republican messaging effort here?
MR: Well again, to their credit, the Speaker’s trying to get something done. I mean, his job is to lead that chamber, and to be a responsible policy maker. So I think he’s trying to get something done, and we have to give him, we have to respect the tough job that he has on his hands, trying to manage the reality of what his institution wants to do, because let me be clear, if John Boehner were in charge, if John Boehner were president, we’d have a deal here, and we’d have a good deal for America. But he’s not, so he’s got to work within the confines of our republic. And right now, our republic has a majority Democrat Senate, and a Democrat in the White House, people who believe that raising taxes are the solution to this problem, even though the taxes they propose to raise don’t raise enough money to even make an impact on the debt. The only impact it would have is to kill jobs. So that’s what we’re dealing with here, and I think the clearer that becomes, the better we’re going to be able to hold our line on this thing.
HH: Now the President is betting, obviously, that he can turn a conservative message into a toxic one for 2012. Your old colleague from the Florida House, Adam Hasner, is running for Senate down there, a lot like Josh Mandel in Ohio, and Ted Cruz in Texas, they’re running as real conservatives with very much a Rubio-like message from 2010. Will that work in this environment of demagoguery from the White House?
MR: Yeah, it will work, because the common sense of the American people is powerful, and I think that too many people here in Washington walk around thinking well, we can spin it this way, or we can use our allies in the media to confuse people and make them not believe their own eyes. But the truth is that we’re way past that today. The ability of people to get information from multiple sources in real time, the ability of us to communicate directly to our constituents, to go on programs such as yours and talk about the reality of what we’re facing, is something that wasn’t around not that long ago, and it’s incumbent upon us who feel passionate about this to go out there and make clear to the people what our choices are. And this is not a complicated issue. It’s very, very simple. The United States spends more money than it takes in, and it’s not generating enough revenue for its government to pay down the debt. So we have to figure out how do we stop spending more money than we take in? We need a balanced budget amendment. We need a spending cap. And we need real reductions in spending starting right now. And what do we do to get more revenue in the hands of government so it can pay down its debt and not grow its government? Well, you’re not going to do that through tax increases. You’re going to do that through new taxpayers, that is getting people back to work, getting people hired and working, so these people will pay taxes, and then we can use that revenue to pay down the debt. That’s what we need. And you’re not going to create new taxpayers, you’re not going to create economic growth and jobs in America if you’re running around threatening to raise taxes.
HH: Do you think the President understands the underlying economics, Senator Rubio, and is just demagoguing it? Or is he fundamentally misinformed about how capitalism works?
MR: I think there are three things going on here. Number one, I think he’s a prisoner to extremist elements in his own base who not only, they don’t care that the taxes don’t solve any problems. They want their pound of flesh. They want to punish somebody, they want class warfare. That’s what they believe in. And this is their chance to do it, and they’re putting pressure on him to do that. So I think that’s his first problem. His second problem is that I think he’s surrounded by a bunch of people who philosophically do not believe fully in the free enterprise system, and in fact, they’d like to see government play a greater role. And they see this downturn in the economy, and crisis such as this, as an opportunity to exert more government involvement in our economy. And that’s the second problem. And his third problem is a level of incompetence. I think the President, quite frankly, is not up to the job. And if you look at every measure of quality of life in America today, unemployment is higher. The debt is higher. The only thing lower is the value of your home. If you look at every measurable economic thing in America today, they are all worse than they were the day he took over. Two and a half years into his presidency, things continue to get worse, not better, and it’s because the President is incompetent in his job as president. He is not, he doesn’t know what he’s doing.
HH: Thirty seconds, Senator Rubio, your colleague, Kent Conrad, wants to cut $800 or more billion dollars out of Defense. Your reaction?
MR: Well, I think the Chinese will be happy about that. I think our enemies around the world will be happy about that. Look, if there’s duplicate programs in Defense in the contracting process, if there’s places to save, we should save. I mean, it’s never been a good idea to waste money, now less than ever. But what we can’t afford is to be lulled into this idea the world is a safer place than it used to be. It’s more dangerous than ever.
HH: Marco Rubio, we’re out of time. It’s always a pleasure, Senator, thank you for your strong words and your leadership.
End of interview.