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Senator Marco Rubio on the filibuster, the upcoming C.R. battle, Obamacare, and more

Friday, March 8, 2013

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HH: So pleased to welcome back now United States Senator Marco Rubio from the great state of Florida. Senator, great to have you, and let me begin by I think echoing the thanks of my entire audience for your willingness to go to the floor yesterday and help out your colleague, Rand Paul. That was a moment that I want to talk about a little bit with you and the C.R., but I’m glad you did it. Thank you for doing it.

MR: Well look, I’m a member of a body, and I would have done it if it was a Republican or a Democrat, let me be clear, because he was asking a legitimate question of the White House, and deserved a legitimate and straightforward answer. We all have different feelings about the drone program, its effectiveness, its usefulness. I, for one, am concerned, because I think that we should be interrogating terrorists. The reason why you want to interrogate a terrorist and take him prisoner, the reason why we had a place like Guantanamo is because we want a place A) to remove him from the battlefield, but B) to find out information – who are the other terrorists? What other attacks are you planning? Where is your headquarters? Where do you build the bombs? What other attacks do you have in mind? You can’t find this out from a dead man. And that’s one of the problems that we have today, is we don’t have a place to take these folks. There is no Guantanamo in terms of the President. There is no place to interrogate terrorists – not torture, interrogate. And as a result, you have this drone program. Now he asked a legitimate question in terms of it’s a pretty straightforward one. I don’t understand why they couldn’t have just answered it. I heard some people today mock it, and I would say well, if it’s such a silly question, why couldn’t you just dismiss it quickly with a very straightforward answer. And instead, what you got is this kind of complicated hemming and hawing, and a refusal. And the longer that went on, I felt not only was it disrespectful to Senator Paul, but to the institution, and to the American people who have a right to have questions answered, even if the White House may think the questions aren’t deserving of an answer.

HH: Now I don’t believe the grassroots want combativeness for combativeness sake. But I do think that they want a certain diligence in argument, Senator Rubio, and using the tools of the trade available to you. Now I know you saw what happened on Twitter last night. There must have been tens of thousands of individual messages repeated millions of times. And Rand Paul triggered that. And I was glad to see you and Ted Cruz, and a number of your colleagues, and some of them older…I mean, Mitch McConnell went to the floor last night, took, taking advantage of a moment in time. Do you think that your colleagues, not only in the upper chamber, but also in the lower chamber, are beginning to figure out that the new communications world requires that we be nimble and that we be prepared?

MR: Yeah, I think so. I mean, I don’t know, ultimately, I think it allows people to be more engaged. I think 20 years ago, what happened last night probably would have gone unnoticed. But I think today, there are, I imagine, some challenges that come with that new era, but there’s a lot of opportunity. And one of those opportunities is that people now can directly engage in the political process and spread information like never before. But again, and we need to understand, people did it for different reasons, and they’re all important reasons. But I just felt like it was, we have a right to have answers to these questions, and I can tell you the day will come where every single member of this body, at one point or another, will have a question of the executive or some other organism of government, they’ll refuse to give us an answer to that question or play us off. I would hope that our colleagues would rally, whether they agree with us or not on the ultimate issue, that they would rally to our right to know these things, because we can’t effectively represent the people that we serve if we can’t get answers to these important questions.

HH: Now last question on this topic, and then after the break, we’ll talk about the C.R. Staffing matters a lot in modern Washington. You’ve got a great communications guy in Alex Conant. We’ve known Alex for a long time. But a lot of the Republicans seem to still be a step behind and carrying a sack of bricks in their nimbleness. Is there any effort underway where your supporting people are getting trained up to be the Alex’, and to be effective in disseminating message?

MR: Well you know, I don’t know the answer to that. I can tell you that senators come from different states, and some really, really focus on their state media and their state press corps. And I know that for example, Senator Grassley is one of the best operations I’ve ever seen at being in touch with his constituents on a daily, literally a daily basis. And they do a fantastic job. I think a lot of it is people that have been elected in the last cycles, the last two to four years, especially insurgent candidates. Someone like a Ted Cruz or even myself, who were not the favorites early on, and had to overcome better funded opponents, by necessity you just get better at these things, because that’s all you have. I mean, when I first started running, that’s all I had. I mean, I didn’t have a big PR operation. I had access to Twitter, Facebook, and that’s how I had to connect supporters to what we were trying to do. So some of it is just emergent from the last couple of elections cycles, and for many of us, just out of necessity.

HH: You’re being humble, because I also remember you came to this studio for a couple of hours with just your brother, and no notes, and you were willing to engage. And I think that is, boy, we need more and more of that. When we come back from break, Senator Marco Rubio is my guest. You can follow him on Twitter, of course. What’s your Twitter handle, Senator?

MR: @marcorubio.

— – –

HH: Senator Rubio, the continuing resolution is headed your way. How is this stacking up as Act III of the spending drama?

MR: Well first of all, I don’t think anyone is in favor of shutting down the government, but I think that’s where we’re headed ultimately here, unfortunately, if we don’t fix our debt problem. And I’m talking about down the road, long term, long term meaning five, six, three years. We don’t know when a debt crisis will happen. So look, I, about a year and a half ago, I voted for the first continuing resolution, and then I announced this is the last continuing resolution, the last stop-gap measure that I’m going to vote for. I will only vote from here on, on something serious. And so far, we haven’t seen that. All we see is this kicking the can down the road, these manufactured crises. As if people back home don’t have enough to worry about with all the problems we have today, now Washington every month seems to be creating a new crisis for them to worry about, and for the media to freak out about. But here’s what I’ve said about this continuing resolution. Senator Cruz from Texas is offering this amendment to defund Obamacare. If that gets onto the bill, in essence, if they get a continuing resolution and we can get a vote on that and pass that onto the bill, I’ll vote for a continuing resolution, even if it’s temporary, because it does something permanent, and that’s defund this health care bill, this Obamacare bill, that is going to be an absolute disaster for the American economy. You’re already starting to feel the outer edges of that. And all these debates that we’ve been having, we have lost sight of how truly bad the health care law is. I understand the Supreme Court ruled the way they did. It doesn’t make it good public policy. And you’re already starting to hear about it. I already am running into businesses that are planning next year on not hiring people or laying some people off so they don’t have to meet these mandates. Others are going to push their employees off of their private plans that they offer and onto these exchanges, driving up the cost for the public. So this is going to be an implementation disaster. It’s going to hurt our economy severely. And we’re not spending enough time talking about that.

HH: Let me ask you about other discrete issues that could end up in the C.R., Senator Rubio. For example, under Obamacare, a tax was levied on medical devices, one of the most ruinous taxes in there, since it’s on gross receipts.

MR: Right.

HH: It’s a completely destructive, job-destroying tax.

MR: Yeah.

HH: If the repeal of that were in the C.R. and nothing else, would you vote for the C.R.?

MR: I don’t know if that alone would be enough, but I certainly would support that amendment. I certainly would support that measure, because it’s going to hurt patients. What’s going to happen now is it’s going to become less of an incentive to get into that business. And the accessibility to these innovations are going to become lessened. This is one of the arguments that people were using, and that I echoed. I wasn’t in the Senate when Obamacare came up, but we don’t just want an affordable health insurance marketplace. That’s very important. We want the highest quality health care. We want the latest, greatest innovations. That’s what Americans have come to expect. You start taxing innovation, people are going to stop innovating here in this country.

HH: Oh, it’s a nightmare. The 2.3% on medical devices, just a job and entrepreneur killer. How about the timing, Senator Rubio? What are you expecting in terms of this debate rolling out?

MR: I think it’s coming next week, is what Senator Reid has announced. And it’s one of the reasons why he wanted to have the Brennan vote this week, is because he wants to get on it next week. And so I think you can anticipate this argument next week, and I think it’s a perfect opportunity for us to have a debate once again on Obamacare. I don’t think there’s been enough attention paid to it. It’s been awhile, we’ve moved onto these other issues, but there is, right now out there, probably nothing more damaging to our economy in the short term than this implementation of Obamacare.

HH: Now Senator Rubio, also coming up very, very soon is going to be a nominee for the Environmental Protection Agency. This has essentially become a lawless agency. It doesn’t matter that they don’t have the authority to put out many of these rules. They’re putting them out. Do you expect to go to the mat on this, and to get answers to stop this agency?

MR: Absolutely. And we’ve got to know the answers…you know what? I’ll tell you this about that. The only way we’re going to get to where we need to be in this modern age where we’ve got this global economy, this knowledge-based economy, America has to become the best place in the world to do business. We’re not competing against other states anymore. We’re competing against other countries. And you’re seeing that, look, you open up the newspaper, you’ll see again today the Dow Jones hit another historic high. And so people are standing there and they’re scratching their head, and they’re saying hold on a second, how come the stock market is doing so well, but jobs aren’t being created? And the answer is all these companies on the stock market, they’re sitting on a pile of cash, but they’re not investing it into the economy to create jobs, because they’re worried about the future. And one of the things that’s driving uncertainty is these regulations. For example, the energy sector, America’s been blessed with enormous energy resources – natural gas and oil, etc. And the EPA and these other agencies are deliberately standing in the way of this. They are basically tying this country’s, both of their hands behind our backs in the ability to grow and create the most business-friendly economy in the world.

HH: Now Gina McCarthy…

MR: And I think…

HH: Gina McCarthy, she’s the nominee, and she, I don’t know if she’s going in front of one of your committees, but she’s been there for four years. She has a lot to answer for. Do you think the Senate has the spine to yet have another debate over a nominee? We’ve had one over Hagel, we’ve had one over Lew, we’ve had one now over Brennan. Is there will on the Republican side, because this…

MR: There better be, because this is not just about the nominee. This is about the agency, and about the direction the agency has gone, about the decisions the agency has made over the last four years and two months that have really hurt not just the energy sector, but the American economy, about the companies that are looking to leave the United States, about the jobs that are being created in other countries because we have an unelected bureaucracy that’s making America an unfriendly place to do business. So I anticipate this will be a big issue. It better be a big issue. If it isn’t, then you know, the conservative movement is not doing its job.

HH: And a last question, you’re obviously the child of émigrés from Cuba, Central America, South America all watching now what happens in Venezuela after the death of Hugo Chavez. Is the United States doing what it needs to do to help Venezuela throw off that legacy and embrace freedom?

MR: Well, a couple of things. The future of Venezuela belongs and is up to the people of Venezuela. What we can do is show that we are friends of democracy, and that we want and hope and pray, and will do everything we can to support the Venezuelan people in their democratic aspirations. That means if what happens in Venezuela moving forward is undemocratic, we’re going to condemn it as such. That means if new leaders come to power in Venezuela, and truly govern as democrats, not simply get elected, but actually govern as democrats, we’re going to extend our hand of friendship. But we’re not going to pretend for the hope of stability that a government that’s not acting democratically is a democracy. And so I think that’s the best thing we can do, not just in Venezuela, but around the world.

HH: Senator Marco Rubio, always a pleasure, come back soon. @marcorubio on Twitter, America, go follow the Senator there, and we’ll continue to do so here.

End of interview.

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