A panel of top political commentators joins Diane to talk about some of the head spinning events of this last year and to get their perspectives on the challenges ahead.
Sen. Marco Rubio has been called the political equivalent of a rock star. The son of Cuban immigrants, he has risen farther faster than just about any other Latino in American politics. He served in the Florida House of Representatives for eight years and was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010 at age 39. His name has been one of a handful frequently mentioned as a potential running mate for Mitt Romney. But his tough stance on immigration has made him few friends among U.S. Hispanics. In a new memoir, Sen. Rubio writes about his political ambitions and mistakes – and his ideas for America’s future.
- Marco Rubio U.S. senator from Florida and author of "An American Son: A Memoir."
From The Studio
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) addressed what he takes into consideration when making decisions, including what he would consider if presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney chooses Rubio to be his running mate. The nation’s largest Tea Party group endorsed Rubio as its pick for vice president Wednesday. Rubio said he agrees with the tea party movement’s concern that the U.S. government is overstepping its constitutional mandate. “I think one of the most unfair things that’s emerged in American politics over the last couple of years is this definition of the tea party as an outside-the-mainstream movement,” Rubio said.
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Excerpted from AN AMERICAN SON: A MEMOIR by Marco Rubio by arrangement with Sentinel, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc., Copyright (c) Marco Rubio, 2012.
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. Marco Rubio's popularity among conservative Republicans and Tea Party supporters help propel him to the forefront of American politics. As a 35-year-old Florida congressman, he became the first Cuban-American Speaker of the House. Two years ago, he was elected to the U.S. Senate. Many of his fans think he could make it all the way to the top. The Florida Republican has written a memoir titled "An American Son." He talks about his Cuban heritage, his political ambitions and the difficulties of balancing work and family.
MS. DIANE REHMSen. Marco Rubio joins me in the studio. You are welcome to call us with questions, comments. Join us on 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to join us on Facebook or Twitter. Good morning to you, sir.
SEN. MARCO RUBIOGood morning. Thank you for having me.
REHMGood to have you here. You opened your memoir on the night you were elected to the U.S. Senate.
REHMYou talked about the discomfort that you felt and that you felt your children and indeed your wife felt standing behind you. I wonder whether you felt it was too soon -- too much, too soon.
RUBIOWell, that's -- I mean, it's a theme in the book, and I talk about that openly. Sometimes, I do wonder if maybe I got involved in politics too early. This is an age where I think all children want their father around all the time as much as possible, but this is an age where increasingly, you know, your kids want you around. Their activities require you to be there. And my kids deserve that as much as I deserved it or as much as it benefited me, it would benefit them.
RUBIOThe other side of it, however, of course, is I don't think the realm of public policymaking should only be left to those who are not raising children. I think we have an important perspective to offer, and I bring that perspective every day. And I view public policy through the lens of a father who wants their kids to have a better life and are growing up in our country and are going to inherit many of the decisions that we're making.
RUBIOI view it through the lens of a husband who increasingly understands the challenges of raising four young children in our culture and in our society, given both the societal and economic constraints that are in families today. I think it's an important voice to be heard in politics as well. So it's -- I think it's an ongoing thought process for me on that.
REHMAn ongoing struggle, I would assume. And yet here you are mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate on Mitt Romney's ticket. How does that square with this concern you have about your entry into politics, perhaps too soon, your dedication to your family and to the values for which you stand?
RUBIOWell, I think that, again, I've made a decision not to talk about the vice presidential process in particular. But I think in general, the question touches upon every decision that I make, whether it's, you know, taking a trip somewhere like the book ends, talking about an opportunity that I had to travel to Africa at the beginning of this year, bipartisan trip that was headed there to review PEPFAR, which is a program that the U.S. uses to fund AIDS treatments in Africa, and it saved millions of lives. It's one of the things, as Americans, we should be really proud of.
RUBIOThere are people alive today because of the generosity of the American people. But -- and we were packed and ready to go. The book ends with the story. We were packed and ready to go. We were headed to the airport. And -- but my kids had all these activities going on in their lives, and I just made the decision at the last minute that we weren't going to go, me and my wife. And I'll never forget the look on my kids' face when I picked them up from school.
RUBIOAnd I got -- you know, one of the stories I tell is the story shared with me by Sen. Leahy, who told me when he was a younger senator years ago, when he was in the Senate early on, he'd had an invitation from President Ford to attend an event. And he was unable to attend the event because he chose his children and the activity they had. He said he doesn't even remember the event, but his kids will never forget the day that Sen. Leahy picked them over the president.
REHMSo what if you were asked to serve with Mitt Romney?
RUBIOWell, again, I don't talk about that process. But just going back to the general question, which I think it would be applicable to the question you've just asked, I think every decision I make is increasingly, in my life, requires me to understand that I'm not in this alone anymore, and that's a tough thing. And I don't think that's true just for politics, by the way. I think that's true for millions of Americans and the career choices they make.
RUBIODo I take this promotion but have to move to another city? I have members of my family that have chosen to stay in Miami and not take a promotion that paid more money and move somewhere else. So I think, as your kids get older, as they establish their own identities and their own activities -- and there are repercussions to your decision that impacts not just you but your entire family. And if you truly believe what I believe, that the most important job I have is the job of a husband and a father, then those things have to be the first considerations in any decisions that I make.
REHMYesterday, the largest Tea Party group announced you were its top choice as vice president. How much are you in agreement with Tea Party positions, which an awful lot of people see as extreme?
RUBIOWell, I think the -- one of the most unfair things that's emerged in American politics over the last couple of years is this definition of the Tea Party as a outside-the-mainstream movement. The reality of it is that there's diversity of opinion on issues within the Tea Party, by the way, particularly on foreign affairs.
RUBIOBut, by and large, what I have found is that the Tea Party movement, number one, is a movement. It's not an organization. It's a collection of Americans, not necessarily all Republicans, a lot of independent and independent-minded people who are upset at both political parties, upset at the fact that there are these major issues confronting America that are unaddressed, and upset at what they believe is government assuming a role that was never intended for government under the initial founding of our country.
RUBIOAnd it's found voice -- I think that sentiment has always been there. But I think social media has made it possible for individuals to organize themselves along these lines in a way that wasn't possible 15 or 20 years ago, and I identify with those sentiments. I identify with the concern that America's government has gone beyond its constitutional mandate, and it's had some negative repercussions.
RUBIOAnd I'm incredibly frustrated, the fact that I think both political parties are to blame for a lack of urgency on some of the major issues that we face. This notion that all of these problems can wait until the next election to solve, there's always a next election. And so that can't be the criteria.
REHMBut you cannot get Republicans and Democrats to come together to make the decisions that have to be made apparently before the election.
RUBIOWell, you know what's interesting -- and I've learned and I talk about this in the book -- is that more often than not you can. I've been able to work -- it doesn't get coverage. The truth is that a Republican or Democrat working together just is not -- doesn't sell newspapers and doesn't drive ratings. Conflict sells, and so that's what's going to get the coverage. And there's plenty of it.
RUBIOBut, for example, I have been -- I have -- I'm part of two bipartisan bills that involve job creation. Basically, one is called the AGREE Act and the other is called Startup 2.0, and both are basically a collection of ideas, important ideas that Republicans and Democrats agree on. And we can't even get a vote on these things. Just a couple of days ago, I spoke to some folks that were involved in the super committee.
RUBIOAnd for an initial period of time, it appeared that there was mutual interest and a plan that would allow for tax reform and yet generate revenue for government to pay down its debt. But then, all of a sudden, the Democrats on the committee couldn't move -- decided, after consulting with their conference in the White House, that they couldn't move forward. So there's a lot of politics involved here, no doubt about it. But there's more agreement than folks under -- believe there is.
REHMMarco Rubio, he is U.S. senator from Florida. His new memoir is titled "An American Son." Do join us, 800-433-8850. Your parents came to the U.S. from Cuba. In the U.S., your father was a bartender, your mother a maid. How did they shape your views about what it is to be an American son?
RUBIOWell, first, my parents wanted us to have the things they didn't, and that began for -- especially for my father with a strong and stable home. As I recount in the book, my father's mother passed away when he was only 8 or 9 years old. He had to go to work. His dad basically started dating, I guess, or living with another woman, and moved out of the house. So he was basically on his own from a very young age.
RUBIOHe never wanted his kids to go through that. So he's deeply committed to his marriage and to our family. And the greatest gift our parents gave us is that strong and stable home where we were encouraged to dream. We felt love, and we felt secure. The second thing our parents wanted us to have that they didn't have was education and empowerment and opportunity. And it was very clear to us.
RUBIOIt was made very clear, especially to my sister and I, the younger of the two kids who were born to our parents when they were in their 40s, that we would have the chance to do anything we wanted. There was nothing we couldn't do. And, in fact, our parents always taught us that, you know, we -- I remember distinctly that, you know, driving by neighborhoods of people who had been very successful.
RUBIOAnd my parents very -- made it very clear to me, and to us, that we could -- that's what we wanted from life. We didn't want to -- we didn't need to have that. But if wanted to have that, there's no reason why we couldn't -- not our last name, not our heritage, not our background. None of these things were an impediment to us being whatever it is we decided we wanted to be in life. And I thought that was the greatest gift that our parents left us. And I think all of that deeply influenced by the experiences they had in their own lives and the struggles they had especially in the early parts of their lives.
REHMYou've been criticized for encouraging an image of your parents as refugees from Castro's Cuba. Do you think that criticism is deserved?
RUBIOWell, two things I'd say. One, I got the date wrong. There's no doubt about that, and I never denied that the date was wrong. In fact, when I found out about it, I stopped saying that. I think the other thing that people -- there's two other points that they need to overlook. There...
REHMI think we may need to make clear that an initially you had said they had fled Castro's Cuba. He wasn't in -- he did not enter the revolution until after.
RUBIORight. So I believe -- initially, I would say that -- let's important -- it's important to point out what I used to say and did not say. I used to say my parents came to the U.S. in the late 1950s after Fidel Castro took over. What I never said was my parents fled on a boat in the middle of the night while being shot at by Castro, you know, thugs or what have you. I never recounted any specific tale like that. I definitely was wrong about the date of their arrival.
RUBIOBut there's two points that I want to drive on it. The first is that exile is not a technical term. It is a state of mind. My parents clearly felt exiled from the nation of their birth. When Fidel Castro took over, my parents thought about going back to Cuba. My grandfather did go back to Cuba, and they, in fact, did travel back there to see if it was possible to return, and it was clear they could not. And they felt the pain of that permanent separation.
REHMMarco Rubio, his new memoir is titled "An American Son." When we come back, we'll talk further, take your calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back. Marco Rubio, U.S. senator from Florida, is here with me. We're talking about his new memoir. It's titled "An American Son." And I'm sure, as most of you know, Marco Rubio appears to be on the short vice presidential possibility list for Mitt Romney. Senator, President Obama borrowed your ideas on the DREAM Act to implement it by executive action. Why have you been so critical of the president on this?
RUBIOWell, my criticism is two-fold. The first is I think these kids, what they need and what America needs, not just on that topic but in general in immigration is a permanent, long-term solution to this problem. And that's what we were working on as a permanent bipartisan solution to this problem that took into account the fact that the DREAM Act is currently structured was too broad, but that there was a way to accommodate these kids without encouraging illegal immigration in the future.
RUBIOI never heard from the White House on it nor anybody associated with them about working together with us on it, which is not because I want to get the credit for it or because my feelings were hurt. It's because of your -- in fact, that we are trying to accomplish bipartisan and permanent solutions. You can't do that without the support of the White House, the Senate and the House.
RUBIOAnd if they were, in fact, interested in such a solution, and they open the newspaper, and after years of battling Republicans on this issue, they read that a Republican is interested in the solution, you would think they would reach out. And instead what has been documented by multiple -- I think The Washington Post and others -- is that the White House met with some of the DREAM Act advocates, the kids, and instructed them or asked them not to cooperate with me. That's not me saying that that's been documented in the press.
REHMDocumented by whom?
RUBIOOh, The Washington Post wrote an extensive article about how the White House had met with some of these kids and told them don't work Marco Rubio and don't work on his solution with them, and then they come out with this announcement. Now, here's the problem with the announcement. It politicizes the issue and -- which both parties are guilty of, by the way -- and sets us back in the effort to solve this.
RUBIOThe immigration issue in general and the issue of these kids in particular will never be solved so long as it is a campaign issue, a political talking point, a wedge issue that the parties use against each other and, unfortunately, by -- I understand that this in the short term helps some of these kids but in the long-term, I think, sets back the cause.
REHMBut if it could have gotten through both Houses of Congress, surely it would've gone forward. The fact was it couldn't, and so the president took executive action.
RUBIOWell, it couldn't primarily because the president stopped it or tried to impede it. I mean, early on in the first two months of my idea being publicly discussed, I was accused by people on the left as supporting American apartheid, second-class citizenship, modern-day Dred Scott, modern-day three-fifths compromised. I mean, these ridiculous accusations that were made against me, it toned down later after about a month-and-a-half of being clear that there was actually support for my idea among the activists.
RUBIOBut look, I think part of it is this oversimplification of the immigration issue, which I discussed in the book. I think the issue is oversimplified. It's a complex issue. On the one hand, America needs to have immigration laws, and I think we need to remind everybody there is no right to illegally immigrate to the U.S. You don't have a right to that. On the other hand, America has always had a legacy of compassion for people who find themselves here in difficult circumstances even if they're not in technical compliance.
RUBIOThe example I always use is Cuban refugees. My grandfather was one of them who arrived in 1963. When a Cuban refugee arrived on the shores of the United States, sometimes on a raft, they didn't do so through the visa process, yet America allowed them to stay because they understood that communism was bad and these poor people were being trampled by it, and, out of compassion, we allowed to stay. And it's that same spirit that I've tried to call on again for us to figure out a solution for these kids but to do so in a way that doesn't reward or encourage illegal immigration in the future.
REHMI know you support E-Verify and Arizona's show me your papers laws. Doesn't this seem to be a less than compassionate approach to undocumented immigrants?
RUBIOWell, let me -- I don't know what's -- I don't know where the lack of compassion accusation could come on E-Verify. All E-Verify says is we're going to make it easier for you to comply with what's already the law. I mean, the law now says that employers must verify the eligibility of the people that they're hiring. All E-Verify does is create an online platform for them to be able to do that.
RUBIOIt actually creates a safe harbor for employers to say, hey, I went online. I searched on the government's database. It said that they were legal. You can't punish me if they turn out not to be. Right now, you have to check their documents. But it's hard for employees to sometimes decide or be able to discern whether the document the person has is forged.
REHMBut what about show me your papers?
RUBIOWell, I don't think that's -- first of all, I believe that the Arizona law that states like Arizona under the Tenth Amendment have a right to protect themselves. For Arizona, in particular, a border state with a porous border with Mexico, it's not as much an immigration issue as it is a security issue. I don't think -- and on the other hand, I don't believe that Arizona's law is a model for other states should follow. I think the right solutions for the federal government to solve this problem.
RUBIOI also don't think, by the way, that show me your papers is an accurate description of the law. What the law, I think, says is that if an individual is stopped for some other reason, be it traffic infraction or another infraction, they're always asked to produce ID. Especially if I get pulled over for speeding, the first thing they ask me for is my driver's license and my registration. And if the driver is unable to provide that, then it says the police could determine whether they are there legally and whether they are legally present.
REHMBut on the other hand, with Arizona, the question as to whether a policeman can approach any individual who might be suspected of being an illegal immigrant is far more fuzzy, isn't it?
RUBIOWell, that's one of the reasons -- one of the things they did in the law, and it's why my position on the law changed, is after it passed, the Arizona legislature went back and made it clear in the law that they couldn't profile. You couldn't pull someone over 'cause they looked like they may not be here legally. Now, could that in practice still occur? That could occur whether the law is in place or not.
RUBIOI mean, the truth is that we should discourage that from happening and especially in places where there are a lot of visitors from overseas, you know? And so, yeah, look, that's one of the reasons why, I think, a federal policy is a better approach. And -- but I also think, in fairness to Arizona, we need to understand that it's not as much an immigration issue as it is a security issue. I mean, there is a security issue at the border.
RUBIOAnd it's not just housekeepers and maids coming across the border. It's drug trafficking, gun trafficking, human trafficking, a real humanitarian crisis. And it has spilled over to American cities in Arizona, and the people there are fed up that the federal government's not doing its job.
REHMYou've also been supportive of Florida's purge of voter rolls, which apparently clearly disproportionately targeted Latinos. How much actual evidence is there that voter fraud is a big problem?
RUBIOWell, two separate issues. Number one is, should laws be created to specifically disqualify certain profile of people or make it harder for a certain profile of people from voting? Absolutely not, and I would oppose any law that did that. On the other hand, I think if there is one person on the voter rolls that doesn't belong there, if there was one non-citizen voting, that's one too many.
RUBIOI'm not -- I think that no one can argue against the idea that our voter list should be pure and only people that should be voting in the United States are people that are legally able to vote. Now, there can be debate about the tactics in which to pursue then. I think that's a valid debate to have. If people think that the way Florida is trying to, you know, improve its voter rolls is wrong and there's a better way to do it, I'm open-minded on the way you do it.
RUBIOBut in terms of whether we should do it or not, I think that's absurd. I think absolutely there should not be a single person on the voter rolls that doesn't belong there.
REHMOn the other hand, the question remains just how large the role of voter fraud actually is, and, as I've read and heard about this, it seems pretty small.
RUBIOBut that -- but to accept that argument would be to accept the belief that some level of voter fraud is acceptable because it's not big enough. I'm not willing to accept any level of voter fraud. Obviously, it may happen. There's no way you can completely prevent anything. But I don't think there's any acceptable level of voter fraud. There's -- I don't think there's any acceptable level of people being on the voter rolls that do not belong there.
RUBIOAgain, if there's a better way to implement it that's less disruptive, I think we should pursue that, and I'm open-minded about it. We never want to disenfranchise anyone who has a right to vote. On the other hand, I think that when you allow people to vote who are not eligible to vote, you are disenfranchising people because. for every ineligible voter on the roll, it cancels out the eligible vote of someone else.
RUBIOAnd so that is a disenfranchisement itself. So, again, the tactics are debatable, but I don't think the goal should be. I'm not -- I don't think there is any acceptable level of fraud.
REHMYou've been dogged by questions about financial disclosure issues in both your Senate campaign even before. Why did you not begin earlier to separate your professional from your personal finances?
RUBIOWell, they are. I think a lot of it has been...
REHMBut they weren't.
RUBIONo, they were. I think that the book talks about how they've been exaggerated by -- and I think one of the lessons that I learned is that when you're in politics, perception is reality and that your opponents, politically, are going to take anything and put it in a context, the worst possible context, to make you look bad. And I wish, as I talk about in the book, going back, I had known that then and been more careful about it then.
RUBIOBut if you look at some of the assertions that have been made against me, some are outright ridiculous. I mean, people -- for example, I've had Democrats accuse me of having too much debt. But, quite frankly, the only debt I've ever had is -- for the most part, I don't have any credit card debt or any exorbitant, you know, exotic debt instruments -- I have a mortgage on my houses, and I have, you know, obviously, a lease on a car, and I have student loans. That's my -- that basically is the sum of my debt, which...
REHMAnd then there was the $400,000 that you used to redo your Florida speaker's office.
RUBIOThat's completely inaccurate, Diane. I never put $400,000 into the speaker's office.
REHMWhere did that figure come from?
RUBIOThe money came -- as I explain in the book, the -- we didn't spend a penny on redoing the speaker's office at all. The money went into redoing the office spaces -- and here's why -- because we created the office of ranking member for the Democrats. When I became speaker of the House, I told the Democrats that they would have and that the Democratic minority leader, who is a good friend of mine, could choose a ranking member for each committee, basically the Democratic chairman on that committee.
RUBIOAnd their comeback to me was, well, that's great, but we have nonpartisan staff in Florida. The staff works for all the members. That's great that someone's going to be the ranking member of the Budget Committee. But if our ranking member is not near the staff of the Budget Committee, we don't have access. Well, in order for me to build an office for them to be near the staff, it required us to do construction.
RUBIOAnd that is where the 90 percent of the money we spent went to, as we document in the book, was reconfiguring office space to accommodate the Democrats' ranking members, and it involved basically drywall. There was no cosmetic changes made to the speaker's office, not one, not a single one. The only change made to the speaker's office was the removal of a back -- secret back door spiral staircase between the third floor and the fourth floor.
REHMSo you're saying that your political critics created a fiction about what was actually done.
RUBIOWell, they -- actually, this issue was extensively examined after the fact by the press, including the Associated Press, and was all ruled to be ridiculous. We didn't spend a penny on redoing it. There's not any cosmetic changes made whatsoever to the speaker's office other than the removal of a secret spiral staircase. But absolutely: Your political opponents are going to take that, and they're going to say, instead of saying changes to the Florida House, they're going to say changes to the speaker's office when there wasn't a single one. Those are facts.
REHMGov. Mitt Romney has been pushed to release more of his tax returns. Have you released your tax returns?
RUBIOYeah. During our campaign, we did that. In fact, they were posted online. And...
REHMHow many years?
RUBIOI don't remember. I think we went back eight to 10 years.
REHMDo you think Gov. Romney should release his?
RUBIOI think every -- well, he's released as many as the previous Republican nominee. My point is if you release five, it'll be six. If you release six, it'll be seven. I think every campaign is different. Everyone makes the decisions. I think if people want to change the law on what disclosure should be, they should change the laws on disclosure. But I think every race is different, and every candidate makes their own decision on it.
REHMMarco Rubio, U.S. senator from Florida, his new memoir is titled "An American Son." And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." And joining us now is Sen. Mark (sic) Warner, a Virginia Democrat. Good morning to you, sir.
SEN. JOHN WARNERWell, how do you do, Diane? I'm sorry that -- about the flip-flop. This is the old Sen. John Warner...
REHMSorry about that.
WARNER...who preceded Mark Warner...
WARNER...Mark being an excellent senator. My 30-year record is -- in the Senate is still up for grabs and scrutiny.
REHMYes, sir. Tell me why you wanted to call in to talk with Marco Rubio.
WARNERWell, frankly, I love the Senate, and I can tell in his voice he's off to a good start. And may I say, personally that question on the question about the children is so important. I tried to involve my children. I had my son work in the mail room, and he used to grouse at me, but you pay the other guys and you don't pay me. And I said, that's part of your responsibility.
REHMAll right. Sir, I'm going to have to move this along. So I just wondered if there was a particular reason that you wanted to be on this program this morning.
WARNERSenator, years ago when I came to the Senate, and even prior to that when I was secretary of the Navy, I worked on the Law of the Sea Treaty. And you were on the Foreign Relations Committee. And when we took an oath of office to support the Constitution, I think inherently in that is to support the procedures of the Senate. The president has that treaty before the Senate, and it can be only law in this nation if there's a advice and consent of the Senate.
WARNERJohn Kerry and Dick Lugar have held hearings on it. They're preparing the public record for debate in the Senate and before the public. Would you help to just get it up and let it be debated and so the American public can better understand this bill because it's very important for this treaty and to the United States? It creates jobs.
REHMAll right. Sir, thanks for calling.
RUBIOThank you for calling, senator. Just for folks back home who may not be familiar with it, the Law of the Sea Treaty was negotiated back in the '80s, and there's been some changes to it, some reservations made to it by President Reagan and others. And it basically creates a platform to decide disputes about -- maritime disputes. And I've looked at the Law of the Sea Treaty. First of all, I don't have a problem debating any issue.
RUBIOI wish there were more debate in the Senate, and, unfortunately, there isn't these days. That being said, I don't have -- I've looked at the Law of the Sea Treaty. I've listened to very distinguished people on both sides of the argument and have concluded that I will not support the treaty. I believe the treaty not only undermines American sovereignty, but ultimately American energy security as well.
RUBIOI also question the ability of the treaty to function. I'll give you a perfect example right now in the South China Sea. The Chinese and others are signatories to the Law of the Sea Treaty, and yet in the law -- and yet in the South China Sea, China is increasingly asserting sovereignty over islands, you know, hundreds and hundreds of miles away from their territorial waters.
RUBIOAnd what's deciding who has territorial claims in those region is who has the better Navy, who has -- it isn't being decided at a forum like ASEAN or some other. It's being decided by who has more guns and who has more ships. And I think that's ultimately been the law of the sea over the last 100 years is U.S. naval supremacy.
REHMAll right. Thanks for calling, Sen. Warner. Final question before we go to the break: Do you support public funding for public broadcast?
RUBIOWell, interesting you would ask. Look, I think ultimately -- let me start by saying that I have been concerned over the amount of money spent on it, just on public broadcasting, and question the need for it -- although I enjoy your program. And I think there's plenty of private support out there for programming such as this and others that should be available. I don't think we can balance our budget by cutting your funding. I think the real drivers of our debt are other programs. But I do have concerns about spending money on public broadcasting.
REHMMarco Rubio, U.S. senator from Florida. When we come back, your phone calls. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to our conversation with U.S. senator from Florida, Marco Rubio. His new memoir is titled "An American Son." We'll go first to Mark in Oklahoma City. Good morning to you.
MARKCongresswoman Michele Bachmann, as I understand and as I can remember, was the head of the Tea Party caucus in the House of Representatives, just issued a statement together with, I think, some other Tea Party members, accusing a top aide of Hillary Clinton of being in league with the Muslim Brotherhood. Sen. John McCain went on the floor of the U.S. Senate to roundly and vociferously condemn that. I'm wondering if Sen. Rubio would join Sen. McCain in condemning Congresswoman Bachmann's accusations.
RUBIOWell, first of all, thank you for your call. I don't -- the young lady who she spoke about it, from my understanding, never met her before, don't know her, but from everyone I've talked to who has dealt with her, is a professional and a hard working and patriotic American who loves her country and in the service of her country, serving it. We probably don't agree on some public policy issues, but I am not a signatory to that letter. I did not -- I didn't even know that that letter had gone out, to be honest with you, and I don't share the feelings that are in that letter.
RUBIOObviously, every member of Congress has the right to express their opinion, and every member of Congress is held accountable for those opinions, if they're right or if they're wrong. And so any member can say whatever they want, and if they're wrong about it, folks like you and others can criticize them and, in fact, vote against them if they are upset with what they wrote. I can tell you that I don't share the feelings that are in that letter from anything I've seen or heard and, in fact, I'd be -- I'm very, very careful and cautious about ever making accusations like that about anybody.
REHMAll right. To Kyle in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Good morning.
KYLEGood morning. Thanks for taking my call.
KYLESen. Rubio, I've had the chance to follow you not only in Florida for the past few years but also, of course, recently in the U.S. Senate. And I get the impression that you're very frustrated with the process. I guess my question is, do you -- in Florida, I think it's a more functional system in the sense that amendments can be offered and debated on the floor. You have single bills that are on a single topic, and there's actually discussion and debate and up-and-down vote.
KYLEWhat would you like to see changed in the U.S. Senate so that the political process can be a little bit more functional, there can be more discussion and more debates? What rules need to be changed?
RUBIOWell, I don't know about rules. This is really not a rule issue. It's more of an operational issue. Number one is I think we need to start focusing on bills that actually can pass and have to do with something. There's a tremendous number of -- there's always been what they call messaging bills, which is pieces of law that people work on for the purpose of driving a message even though they know it's never going to become law. And that's always happened, including in Florida.
RUBIOAnd, on the other hand, I think everything we're doing now is messaging-related in the Senate. I think that's unfortunate because we do have major issues. There's been some exception recently, whether it was the farm bill or the transportation bill, but, by and large, the legislation that's been heard has been messaging bills as opposed to trying to find real solutions to real problems. So that would be the first change I'd like to see. The second is I think it's critically important that every member be allowed to file amendments.
RUBIOAnd what's happening now is that Sen. Reid, unfortunately, is invoking this process called filling the tree, which is very senatorial. But basically, what it involves is taking up all of the amendment slots so that Republicans can't file their amendments. I think that's unfortunate because the two cent, you know, I -- the people that elected me from Florida have the right to be heard in the U.S. Senate, just as much as those elected from other places. And I think if I have an amendment that I want to file, I should be able to get to vote on it.
REHMGoing back to the earlier question, will you join with Sen. McCain in speaking out against Michele Bachmann and those who did sign the letter, accusing Hillary Clinton's aide of somehow being in league with the Muslim Brotherhood?
RUBIOLook, I'm not in this -- I'm not in the business, I mean, of commenting on every single thing that happens in American politics, every statement...
REHMBut that's pretty big, don't you think?
RUBIOWell, I've already talked about that. But, Diane, look, I'm not in the business of -- I'm not going to get pulled every time someone in the Senate or the House or an American politics decides to say something over the top, having to have a comment and calling on people to do this or that and the other. Sen. McCain knows this young lady personally, was offended by it, spoke out on it. I can tell you, I would never have signed that letter. I don't share the feelings of that letter. I don't express myself in that manner.
RUBIOI don't know of any reason why someone should accuse someone like her of saying those kinds of things about someone like her. I don't think that that's right and fair. And I think the people who vote for the folks that wrote this should hold those folks accountable. They're really upset about it.
REHMAll right. To Patrick County, Va. Good morning, Minnie.
MINNIEGood morning. How are you?
MINNIEI enjoy your show.
REHMI'm glad. Thank you.
MINNIEAnd as a teacher for 36 years, I feel that it is one of the most informative programs on the air.
MINNIEAnd my question to the senator is I don't feel that he quite answered your question about funding for NPR radio. Now, he says he has doubts about the fact that it should be funded, yet he's spending an entire hour on the show today. You know, is it yes, or is it no? How do you feel?
RUBIOWell, I said I was concerned about it, and I'll tell you why because I think today there is no shortage of broadcasting options available to people. I think this is an excellent program, for example, and I can guarantee you that if NPR was unable to function because of it -- there are plenty of other commercial outlets that would love to have "The Diane Rehm Show" because of folks like you that listen to it. I think we're in a different era now than we were 50 or 60 years ago where maybe the importance of public broadcasting was heightened.
RUBIOAnd you're probably going to disagree with me on it, but I think at a time when the government is spending more money than it takes in, we need to carefully evaluate everything we spend money on, including public radio.
REHMOf course, the fact is that if funding for public radio were to go away, an awful lot of those smaller stations across the country would go dark without commercial representation.
RUBIOWell -- and, again, I think there are -- like I said, there are two sides to every argument, and I always try to be open-minded about that. This is a new issue for me. We didn't really confront this issue in the state legislature. But my general feeling about it is, at least my initial impression on it is that at a time when there are so many broadcast options available, I mean, I have 300 stations on my satellite radio. Does the federal government need to be involved in the broadcasting business? So you may have a good answer as to why we should be, and I'm always willing to listen to those arguments.
REHMDo you believe that your being here contradicts, in any way, those statements?
RUBIOI mean, anytime we have an opportunity to go anywhere, we try to take that opportunity to communicate with people that are listening. And, as I said, I think your show would be on the air whether it was on NPR or not because of its content and the viewers -- and the listeners, I should say, enjoy listening to your show. So I think you'd find a home pretty quickly.
REHMAll right. To San Antonio, Texas. Good morning, Mike.
MIKEYes, good morning. Thank you for taking my call.
MIKEI have a question for the senator. As a politician, you ran for office as a Republican and got elected. But now as a Republican senator, you have voted along the party lines, and people found out in your district that you signed these so-called pledges which ties your hand as a senator to vote on anything but -- voting strictly along party lines where you signed pledges with no tax increase, no abortion program, no nothing. And then how can you say -- what are you?
MIKEYou are a politician, Republican, who represent the Republican Party in the Senate first, or you're a politician Republican, who will elect -- who will represent his people and his district first?
RUBIOWell, thank you for your question, and it actually -- it gives me an opportunity to state something that I've said repeatedly. And that is, in fact, everything I've done in the senate is consistent with my position as a candidate. I ran for office with a very specific policy platform. I was very clear on where I stood on tax increases. I oppose tax increases because I think they hurt -- I oppose increases of the current tax code because I think they hurt economic growth and development, and I was consistent about that.
RUBIOThe pledge you're talking about is one I have signed years ago, not now, not six months ago because I believe that tax increases hurt economic growth. It's not some religious opposition to tax increases. It's the belief that it hurts growth, which is the number one issue facing our country. The fact of the matter is if I did something different than that, I would actually be violating what I campaigned on and what people voted for when they elected me.
RUBIOThey knew what they, you know, folks in Florida knew where I stood on these issues, and in a three-way race, I got almost 58 percent of the vote. As far as voting on the party line, that's actually not accurate. I voted against the leadership of my party on numerous issues, including the transportation bill and the agriculture bill, because I think there were components in there that violated the reasons why I ran. You know, on the one hand, I said -- give you a perfect example.
RUBIORepublicans said during the 2010 elections that if they were given the majority in the House and Senate, that they would not do this process of these last-minute bills where they put all kinds of unrelated things together, and folks were forced to vote for a bunch of bad things in order to get a handful of good things. That's exactly what the farm bill was. It was a collection of things that never could have gotten passed on their own because they're not good public policy.
RUBIOBut they were linked to things that had to happen, and that's how they get -- forced people to vote for them. There are bunch of Republicans in my leadership who voted for that. I voted against it. So I don't think it's accurate to say that I vote the party line.
REHMDid you sign Grover Norquist's pledge of no new taxes?
RUBIOI actually signed it when I was in the state legislature, so that's not news to me.
RUBIOBecause I believe that tax increases hurt economic growth. Obviously, if the tax rate was zero, I would have not signed that pledge, but the tax rate is not zero. It's significant. For example, the Americans who according to the president are wealthy pay 35 percent of their wealth, of their income to the federal government. That's going to go up to over 40 percent this coming year.
RUBIOI think that's -- the Ernst & Young, not Marco Rubio, not the Republican Senatorial Committee, Ernst & Young just came out with a report that says very clearly that if these tax increases go under effect next year, 700,000 jobs will be lost across the United States and countless small businesses, countless small businesses will be dramatically impacted. This notion that somehow there's a bunch of rich billionaires on yachts who are benefiting from that is ridiculous. Those folks make their money on investments.
RUBIOThe people who are primarily getting hurt by raising those taxes, like the president and the Senate Democrats are proposing, are the people that own small businesses and S corporations and partnerships.
REHMForgive me for saying this, but what you've just said sounds like absolute boilerplate. If one looks back at the last decade when taxes were low, how many jobs could we create?
RUBIOWell, actually, after the Bush tax cuts were implemented, we had historic increases in revenue to government.
REHMAnd then huge deficits.
RUBIOBut not -- well, the problem...
RUBIOYeah. But the deficit -- but my point is when -- that's one of the great myths in American politics today. After the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, we had historic increases in revenue to government. The problem is we had even more historic increases in spending. In essence, even though we had more money coming in the government, if you're...
REHMAnd do you blame that on the Democrats?
RUBIONo. I've always – the debt is a -- you don't run up a $16 trillion debt without both parties cooperating.
REHMI keep hearing from small business owners who say the taxes are not the problem, the regulations are not the problem, it's their uncertainty about what's going ahead.
RUBIOWell, uncertainty clearly is important. But, I mean, if you're certainly telling they're going to have a 41 percent tax rate next year, I'm not sure that's going to make them likelier to hire.
REHMHow many small businesses are going to have a 41 percent tax?
RUBIOHundreds of thousands because they're -- I'll give you an example. If you own a small T-shirt shop in Orlando, Fla., and your revenue every year is $200,000, you're probably organized as an S corporation. Your taxes are going up next year. That's a fact. If you are a small business that makes $200,000, your taxes are going up next year into the 41 percent bracket when you add in all the things that are a product of Obamacare, plus the increase in the tax rate.
RUBIOThat's not a rich person. A small business making $200,000, when you factor in costs, is not Warren Buffett. And that's what's not being told. And it's not me saying it. It's Ernst & Young saying it.
REHMAll right. Let's remind our listeners, you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's go now to Linden, Mich. Good morning, Rod.
RODGood morning, Diane. First-time caller, longtime listener.
RODMy question is, Senator, if you had been in the Senate back in the '50s when Joe McCarthy was calling out the names of Americans who are communists and destroyed careers while other senators stepped back, would you have stood up then...
ROD...or would have you let things take the way they're going now with Huma Abedin (unintelligible) women are not speaking up?
RUBIOWell, things aren't going -- well, first of all, I think that the analogy is, quite frankly, not -- they're not -- you're talking about apples and oranges. Joe McCarthy...
RODNo. I'm talking about a woman whose reputation is being ruined...
RUBIONo, it's not.
ROD...because they have no basis for what they've been saying about her...
RUBIOOK. If I may...
ROD...about women, unlike you (unintelligible) have not stood up.
RUBIOOr if I may answer your question? OK. May I answer your question?
RUBIOOK. Number one, Joe McCarthy held a series of hearings over a number of years where Americans were dragged in before congressional committees and accused of all kinds of things. We're talking about one letter that's been roundly criticized by virtually everybody else, including myself, who said, I would not sign that letter. I reject the things that that letter says, and I don't think that they're appropriate. And I think your characterization of my position is inaccurate.
RUBIOI'm just not going to go around, you know, giving attention to these sort of things 'cause they don't deserve that attention. I think they've been criticized for what it is -- it's one letter -- on things that are not factual, and everyone has said that but the four people who signed it. And people have every right to express outrage and vote against their members of Congress if they disagree with them signing the letter. But on – and – but on the other hand, I mean, Joe McCarthy held hearings over a number of years and dragged Americans before that panel.
REHMYeah. But don't forget, I'm a lot older than you are. I lived through those McCarthy hearings. And indeed, it began with one accusation and...
RUBIOWell -- but, Diane, and that's what -- let me tell you. But, now, you're asking me to go under the world of speculation and...
REHMNo, I'm not. No, I'm not.
RUBIOYeah. Because you are -- you're saying that if this letter -- what do you want me to -- if this letter leads to congressional hearings, you're talking about something different, but it's not going to. Everybody thinks this letter is wrong except for the people who signed it.
REHMNo. All I'm saying is that one accusation of this kind can lead down a devastating path.
RUBIOWell, it won't because we won't allow it. And I think there's plenty of voices out there...
REHMI'm glad to hear.
RUBIO...saying that the letter is inaccurate. And I think I've stated that three or four times on this program already.
REHMAll right. And, finally, to Cammy (sp?) on Capitol Hill here in Washington. Good morning to you.
CAMMYGood morning, Senator. My name is Cammy, but I'm a journalist. And my question is about your stand on immigration. I'm sorry, I didn't read your book, but I did read the story of your grandfather. He was such an honest, honorable and decent man. He didn't want to depend on his daughter. I saw myself into his (unintelligible) about his life, and it made me cry. And in the perspective – see, I'm a Republican. A couple of years ago, I was working on Bob Ehrlich's campaign, who is Republican. He used to be governor of Maryland.
REHMCammy, I need your question, please.
CAMMYSo my question -- yeah, my question is this (unintelligible) said that these immigrants are not the one who brought the (word?) down, and they are not the ones who are the victims of our system. I started (word?) even when I was supporting Bob Ehrlich. I think we are conditioned to have fast immigration policy and a fast (word?) for them. But I'm surprised that you are not into that policy. And aren't you afraid that people would call you opportunistic?
RUBIOI don't understand his question.
REHMHe is arguing that your position on immigration is simply to appease extremists.
RUBIOWell, I think that's unfortunate that he would say that 'cause it's not accurate. My position on immigration is that America, number one, America is the most generous country in the world on immigration. A million people a year immigrate here legally and permanently every year. No other country even comes close. I think immigration is critically important for our future. I support a legal immigration system that works so that people can continue to immigrate to the U.S.
RUBIOAnd I think we should find a way to accommodate these young people who find themselves here undocumented through no fault of their own. I don't know what's extremist about that.
REHMMarco Rubio, U.S. senator from Florida, his new memoir is titled an "An American Son." Thank you for being here.
RUBIOThank you. Thank you.
REHMThanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Nancy Robertson, Denise Couture, Susan Nabors, Megan Merritt, Lisa Dunn and Rebecca Kaufman. The engineer is Tobey Schreiner. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones. Visit drshow.org for audio archives, transcripts, podcasts and CD sales. Call 202-885-1200 for more information.
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