HH: I am usually very proud to be a Republican, sometimes embarrassed, but never before ashamed, and I am ashamed today of the deal that the House Republicans are pushing that will screw the career military. And I will debate that deal with the chairman of the Budget Committee, Paul Ryan, after the break. But I begin my discussion today with United States Senator Marco Rubio of the great state of Florida. Senator Rubio, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show, Happy New Year.
MR: Happy New Year. Thanks for having me on.
HH: Normally, I’d begin with some lighthearted banter about the GM search for the Dolphins or something, but I am actually angry…
HH: …that they are going to cut the guaranteed benefits of career military. And Lindsey Graham’s going to join me later, and I know you oppose this as well. But can it be stopped?
MR: Well, we’ll see. I mean, obviously, you know, the way they do those things around here is they back you up until the last minute and then the choice you have is do you want to shut down the government again or do you want to vote for this. And that’s the problem they create for people. But look, I continue to be concerned about it, because we don’t, we’re not doing anything beyond the issue you’ve identified, which is an enormous issue in the state of Florida with the number of military retirees and also active duty members and reservists that live in the state and all the installations that we have. This continues the same process that has gotten us into this mess to begin with, of spending money in an unaccountable way. It does nothing really meaningful to encourage the kind of broad-based economic growth that we need in this country. It does nothing to save our retirement programs. And in fact, you could argue it’s going to place more financial burdens on working-class Americans. So I think you have every right to be concerned about this, and I’m not quite sure what its prospects are.
HH: What I don’t understand is why we would single out, the only group that takes a hit in this bill are the career military. They’re the first people, the only COLA adjustment, and we have retention issues already. We’ve been at, some of these guys, I think, will have served 19 years, about to retire, and they’re going to lose between $80-140,000 dollars.
HH: It’s unconscionable for our party, the party of Reagan, to do this.
MR: Well, you know, one of the concerns you hear from policy folks, and especially people involved in the Defense spending issues are that the personnel costs in the military have gone over the top and things of this nature. On the other hand, my argument to that is that we have an all-volunteer military that in essence you have promises that you’ve made to people who have come to serve for you, put their lives on the line, truly inconvenienced, and in many respects sometimes, you know, endangered their families, certainly themselves, in the service of our country. And now, suddenly, instead of finding or targeting some of the other wasteful practices in government, they become the ones that get targeted. And this has become a pattern. So as I said, you know, I know this was just posted, so I need to look at it more carefully, because there might be other problems with it as well. But I share the concerns you do, and find it difficult to envision supporting something like this.
HH: I hope you, I’ll ask Lindsey Graham later about voting against cloture.
HH: But I also want to talk to you about the insurance, and I’ll talk to Paul Ryan after the break. But there is also a provision in Obamacare that you have a piece coming out tomorrow that I want to talk to you about. It’s called the Health Insurance Industry Bailout, or the Obamacare Bailout.
HH: Would you explain to people what that is?
MR: Yeah, I mean, look, the best way to explain it is there’s this concept called risk corridors. And what it basically, it’s a fancy term for money that is available to help companies who have lost money in the insurance marketplace. They enter this marketplace under certain promises or assurances, or you know, calculations that they’ve made. They insure people. It turns out that the people they insured cost a lot more than they anticipated, they lose money, and in steps the government to bail them out. Now in a normal, regular insurance marketplace where most, the vast and enormous majority of companies have priced it right and are going to make a profit, it has some utility, this sort of idea, because what you don’t want is you don’t want providers not to get paid, and you don’t want patients to go without care. The problem with applying that to Obamacare is the way that Obamacare has now developed, as we knew it would, it is a guaranteed loss. You look at, for example, the news today, at the people that are signing up are disproportionately older and sicker. Well, that’s not who these people, that’s not who these insurance companies thought they were getting when they signed up for this. And many supported this. And as a result, Obamacare and the exchanges have gone from being an insurance marketplace to basically a high-risk pool. And the result is that almost all of these companies are now going to require a bailout. And it’s going to cost hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars to achieve it. And we should not be in the business of doing that, and I filed a bill months ago that wipes that out and does not allow that to move forward. If you’ve got to be bailing companies out in order to participate in Obamacare, that in and of itself tells you that the law is doomed and flawed.
HH: Now the reality is, though, no bill’s going to pass this year, right?
MR: Well, I don’t know.
HH: I mean, the Senate…
MR: I mean, I would like to see particularly vulnerable Democrats who are already on record as having supported Obamacare and having to defend that. I want to see who in this town has the guts to stand up and say I support bailing out insurance companies. Now the insurers are already going around issuing paper and directives to their lobbyists to threaten that this is going to lead to a single payer system, and this, that and the other. And the bottom line is I understand that many of these insurance companies got into this business to begin with because they thought that the people signing up were going to be a certain demographic. And now, it’s turned out not to be the case. But the bottom line is many of these insurance companies supported Obamacare. They thought it was a way to force people to become their customers. And by no means should the American taxpayer now be forced to step in and bail out these private companies. And we’ve done this already in the financial sector. We’ve done this in the automotive sector. And now we’re going to do it in the insurance marketplace? When does this stop?
HH: Well, if you can get a vote on the record for Kay Hagan and Jeanne Shaheen and Mary Landrieu and Mark Udall and Mark Pryor, amen. I mean, that would be terrific. You think Harry Reid will ever allow you to do that?
MR: Well, I don’t know how he’s going to be able to stand up against this. I think the public pressure will be enormous. And I think when people realize that we are bailing out private insurance companies, many of whom, by the way, were supportive of Obamacare because what they thought it would mean for them, and now it hasn’t turned out that way, when people realize what’s in it, I don’t know how anyone around here…now you know, listen, I’ve been surprised before about the lack of shame that somehow I’ve seen from time to time in this process. But I cannot imagine, and look, if you know, they’ve got the guts to stand up and say they support bailing out insurance companies, then you know, that’s fine. But I just find it hard to believe too many people are prepared to say that.
HH: I agree with that, but that takes me back to my first subject. I don’t believe many people will stand up and say cut the retirement benefits of career military.
HH: I don’t think Kay Hagan will, I don’t think Jeanne Shaheen or Mary Landrieu or Mark Udall or Mark Pryor. I think if you guys refuse cloture on that bill tomorrow night, you could pass a week-long continuing resolution. You can put the focus on this unjust act. Do you think enough of your Republican colleagues will join you in doing so?
MR: Well, it’s interesting. I think we’re about to find out over the next 12 to 18 hours as people begin to read the details of this and understand what it entails. And by the way, going back to the Obamacare bailout for a second, you know, the issue is one of the reasons, you know, I don’t know if you’ve been hearing, but Harry Reid is basically not allowing any amendments to be filed and voted on.
MR: And it’s all politics. He’s just trying to protect his members from taking difficult votes, which what do they get paid to do, then? I mean, why do you get paid to be here, then, if you’re not going to vote on anything, and everything’s going to be decided in the office of one man? And I understand that there are prerogatives that come with being in the majority. We’re looking forward to changing that in November. But I don’t think being in the majority allows you to basically dictate the entire operations of the Senate where you know, the people of Florida deserve their voice to be heard just as much as the people from Nevada do. And yet, I know when I come up here every Monday that the likelihood of me getting any of my ideas voted on are zero and nil, because you have a majority leader that basically said the only ideas that are going to be heard are his.
HH: But now, going within the party, though, across the chamber in the House, you’ve got great Floridians like Ron DeSantis, who are military veterans, et cetera. Would it be appropriate for Marco Rubio and other Republican senators to say to their House colleagues, don’t move this bill screwing the military career?
MR: Well, I don’t think I need to tell him that. I’d be more than happy to, but I don’t think I need to. I think they understand that, particularly the members from Florida. And I expect you’re going to hear that from a growing number of them. And I think in the House, you’re going to hear, I’m sorry, in the Senate, you’re going to hear voices like that. Now whether it’s enough to stop this from moving forward, we’re about to find out.
HH: All right. Last question, you gave a speech on poverty this week.
HH: And I’m going to talk to Chairman Ryan after the break about the military, and I’ll hammer, that’s in his court. But you gave a speech and he gave a speech on the poor.
HH: A lot of people think it was cynical. I think it’s heartfelt and a genuine desire to redirect. And then Heritage Foundation came out and blasted you for wanting to send money back to the states, which surprised me, because that’s what conservatives always want to do. Both in the large, what’s going on in D.C. that no one will listen to any idea, and in the small, when did federalism go out of style?
MR: Well, first of all, let me be fair. I think somebody at Heritage didn’t like the idea, but the organization, including Senator DeMint, who now heads it, actually put out favorable Tweets and statements about what I proposed.
MR: As far as the cynical part of it, yeah, people on the left who think this is their issue, but look, they’ve got a track record on poverty, and it’s one of failure. These programs that we have in place today that are designed to help those who are suffering, they help alleviate some of the pain of poverty, but they do not help to cure it. And that’s the problem with the existing programs that we have. They don’t get to the causes of poverty. And the President is obsessed with this idea of income inequality. That’s not really the core issue. Income inequality is a product of something much more important, and that is opportunity inequality, people that while the vast majority of Americans continue to be able to get ahead if you work hard and you sacrifice, and look, it’s tougher than ever before because our economy is doing so poorly. There are people in America that do find impediments to getting ahead. And what we should be focused on is what is it that is holding people back from getting ahead and providing for themselves a better life? And the left doesn’t want to talk about that. For them, the cure to every problem is more government spending, and raising taxes on rich people, and raising the minimum wage. These are stale ideas that poll well, but they really don’t solve the problem. And that’s why fifty years after the war on poverty started, we’ve got close to 50 million people living in poverty in the United States, because we have opportunity inequality. And by returning this to the states, what we have the opportunity to do is to create the sort of creative, to have sort of creative and innovative programs to get to the root causes of poverty.
HH: Well, well done and well said. Good luck in stopping the screw job of the career military, and don’t take Ray Farmer from the Browns for the Dolphins. Thank you, Senator Marco Rubio.
End of interview.