In this Fox News Sunday Show With Chris Wallace: Sen. Rubio on political fallout from budget stalemate; Sens. Blunt, Durbin on chances of Congress compromising
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
Government workers are back on the job after that 16 day partial shutdown, and President Obama is pushing a new agenda for the rest of the year, while Republicans argue about the best strategy to deal with him.
Joining us now, one of the GOP leaders at the center of that debate, Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
And, Senator, welcome back to “Fox News Sunday.”
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: Thank you. Thanks for having me back.
WALLACE: You’re one of 18 Republican senators who voted against the final deal to reopen the government. Was that, in effect, a political gesture because you know it was going to pass anyway? Or were you really prepared to keep the government shut down and to bump up, to pass the deadline for raising the debt limit?
RUBIO: Well, let me be clear: I never was in favor of shutting down the government. I was never in favor of defunding the government. I was in favor of funding the government fully, voted to fund the government fully, made efforts to fund the government fully.
The only thing I didn’t want to see us is us waste any more money on is ObamaCare, which is proven to be a disaster. We’re already that these exchanges, which was the sign up on the exchanges, which was supposed to be the easy part of this endeavor, has turned into a fiasco that the administration is struggling with.
So, why would we waste a penny more on that? And that was — I think it’s important to remember here is what’s at stake is that the American dream is under assault. And people, every single day, who are stuck in jobs that don’t pay enough to live off of or people that haven’t been able to find a job in months, and there is a growing sense in this country that this is the new normal.
We can’t accept that. This is not — this can’t be the new normal.
We can restore what was the American dream and rebuild it once again. But we can’t if we leave all of these issues unaddressed.
WALLACE: We’re going to get to ObamaCare in detail in a moment. But I want to press this question to you, because Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate said that what you guys did for the last two and a half weeks was a mistake.
Here’s what McConnell said, “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule. A government shut down is off of the table. We’re not going to do it.”
Question: Is McConnell wrong?
RUBIO: Well, I think in hindsight, any endeavor that one gets in, there are lessons to be learned. And I think the question for all of us who believe that the country is headed in a wrong direction and programs like ObamaCare need to be refueled and replaced, I think moving toward forward for us, is there any lessons from the last three weeks that we can use so that in the future, we’re more successful at achieving results.
And so, certainly, we’re prepared to have that conversation because I don’t think any of those issues that we’ve talked about, whether it’s the debt or ObamaCare, or is it restoring the American dream, is going to be possible unless there is an organized, unified Republican Party that’s offering the American people an alternative —
WALLACE: But, directly, sir — is McConnell wrong to say government shut down is now off the table?
RUBIO: Well, I never wanted there to be a government shutdown. The people who shut down the government —
WALLACE: I understand, but you —
RUBIO: Yes. But, Chris, the people who shut down the government were the president and the Democrats in Senate who basically said that unless you fund the entire — unless you fund ObamaCare, we’re unwilling to fund the entire government. They took that position and they forced this situation that we have just gone through.
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you another question about McConnell, because the Senate Conservatives Fund, the powerful political action group, has just announced that it is going to support McConnell’s Tea Party challenger in the primary next year.
Question: Do you support McConnell’s reelection to the Senate?
RUBIO: I do. I do support Senator McConnell’s reelection. I think he is trying to lead our conference. It’s a diverse conference with a lot of different opinions, and that’s a tough job to begin and, of course, he’s got to represent his own state.
So, look, I think at the end of the day, he has done a good job being a leader of the Republican conference in the Senate and I think that’s not an easy job to do.
WALLACE: All right. Let’s get to ObamaCare, which I know is your big issue in this particular matter.
The federal Web site for ObamaCare is once again down for repairs this weekend. Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius will not testify before a House subcommittee this week that’s going to investigate the shaky Obama rollout because — well, not necessarily because — but she’s going to have time to attend a gala in Boston the night before.
Should President Obama replace her?
RUBIO: Well, I think that may become an option. I’m not a big fan of those immediate calls for people to resign. But I think in this case, actions like the one you just outlined are going to make it harder and harder for her to do her job effectively. I think people — the transparency or lack thereof on this issue is very concerning.
I think we just heard a news overnight that 400,000 or 500,000 approximately people have somehow gone on a Web site and left some information. That tells us no information for how many people have enrolled and that is a very relevant matter, because if enough people don’t sign up for these exchanges, the rates on these exchanges are going to be astronomical and they’re going to undermine the entire private health insurance industry in the country. So, her refusal to testify and be transparent about I think is undermining her credibility.
And there may come a point now, perhaps we’re not there today, but there may come a point where, in fact, she will have to resign largely because she’s no longer has the credibility to do the job.
WALLACE: Let’s pick up on this point you just made, because I suspect a lot of our viewers haven’t heard about it, just in the morning papers. Administration officials have said overnight that 476,000 people have applied, have submitted applications on either the federal or the state Web sites, but it doesn’t say how many have actually enrolled. And you have to apply first and then you have to find out if you have eligibility and then you enroll.
But having said that, 476,000 applications — does that indicate that perhaps this is less of a mess and that Republicans are overstating the problem?
RUBIO: No. You know, they need to get 7 million people on this thing. So, at the rate they’re going, even by their own numbers, it’s going to get there. Of course, many of these people that are filled this out certainly had made mistakes. Many — some won’t qualify. Beyond that, you know, there is a lot of work to be done, in terms of getting other people on there, and there is no mechanism for them to be able to do that.
And let me tell you why that’s concerning — if enough people don’t sign up for this program, certain background in terms of health and so forth, the premiums on this program are going to become unaffordable. It gets into the sort of debt spiral where the premiums keep going up and then the whole program collapses. And that’s the direction that we’re headed in.
But, again, I the point that I wanted to make was, setting up — in 21st century, setting up a Web site where people can go on and buy something is not that complicated. People do this every day. The inability of the federal government to set up a Web site where people can go on and buy something like health insurance does not bode well for the much more complicated elements of this law that are yet to be rolled out.
WALLACE: President Obama is pushing a new agenda for the rest of the year and one of the key items is he wants to renew his push for immigration reform which is stalled in the House.
Congressman Raul Labrador, who at point was supporting immigration reform now says this, “It would be crazy for the House Republican leadership to enter into negotiations with him, Obama, on immigration because his goal now is to destroy the Republican Party.”
Do you agree with Congressman Labrador?
RUBIO: Well, I’ll make two points in that regard. Number one, immigration reform is something the country needs. I don’t think anyone would disagree that we have a broken legal system. We do not have mechanisms in place to effectively enforce our immigration laws. These issues have to be dressed. What Congressman Labrador is addressing is something that I hear from opponents of our efforts all the time and I think that’s a valid point, and that is this: you have a government and a White House that consistently ignored the law and how to apply it. Look at the health care law. The law is on the books, they decide which parts of it to apply and which parts not to apply. They issue their own waivers without any congressional oversight.
And what they say is, you’re going to pass a legalization law and some enforcement. What’s not to say that this White House won’t come back and cancel the enforcement aspects of it?
And that’s what he means by lack of trust, and quite frankly, it’s difficult to find a good answer to that. I think they make a very legitimate point.
WALLACE: But do you agree —
RUBIO: But certainly, the president has undermined this effort. Absolutely. The president has undermined these efforts.
RUBIO: — over the last three weeks.
WALLACE: But do you agree it would be crazy to deal with them and to press forward with immigration reform because of that lack of trust?
RUBIO: Well, I don’t think that’s what he was saying. I think what he was saying and it’s my position as well, is that the House deserves the time and space to craft their own solution.
Now, this notion that they’re going to get in a room and negotiate a deal with the president on immigration is much more difficult to do for two reasons. Number one, because of the way that president has behaved towards his opponents over the last few weeks, as well as the White House and the things that they’ve said and done. And number two, because of what I outlined to you.
So, I certainly think that immigration reform is a lot harder to achieve today and it was just three weeks ago because of what’s happened here. Again, I think the House deserved the time and space to have their own ideas about how they want to move forward on this. Let’s see what they can come up with. They could very well be much better than what the Senate has done so far.
WALLACE: Well, let me ask you about the Senate plan. You were one of the architects to the plan that passed that Senate. But there has been speculation that because of political backlash against the plan, that perhaps you have backed away from it.
So, let me ask you directly: as part of a comprehensive plan that doesn’t include tougher enforcement measures, do you still support an earned path to citizenship? RUBIO: Well, again, number one, the answer is yes, depending on the way that it’s outlined in a comprehensive package. I still continue to believe as I always have, that the best way to address immigration reform is an individual bills that build on each other sequentially. I’ve always believed that.
Now, the Senate wanted a different direction. I wanted to influence what the Senate came up with. I felt it was important in the Senate to take the first step in this debate.
We have House colleagues. They have their own ideas about how to pursue this. And, ultimately, you know, Chris, we have been lectured now for the last three weeks about being realistic. We’ve been told that you’re not going to get rid of ObamaCare. You’re not going to repeal it. You’re not going to defund it because Barack Obama is in the White House. You have to be realistic. We’ve been lectured about that.
Well, I think they need to be realistic about immigration reform.
The fact of the matter is, the House and many of its members have very strong opinions on what a reform effort should look like. And without them onboard, there won’t be reform.
So, I think many Democrats are going to have to make the decision about immigration. Do they want it as a political talking point or are they looking for a result? And if they’re looking for a result, they’re going to have to show a little bit more flexibility on some of the key points, like the one you’ve outlined.
WALLACE: Senator, some conservatives, as you well know, call your plan — even though it takes 13 years to become a citizen and you have to go through a lot of steps to do so — still call your plan amnesty. And the fact is, in these early presidential horse race polls, you have taken a hit. I want to put up one of them.
In April, you led the Quinnipiac poll with 19 percent, followed by Ryan, Rand Paul, and Christie. But this month, Paul leads, followed by Christie, and you’re back in third place.
Has your support for comprehensive immigration reform hurt you with conservatives?
RUBIO: Again, obviously, you’re citing a poll that shows that that might be the case. But that’s not why I did it. So, clearly, if someone is only looking at everything through a lens of what the future could hold politically, they probably would never have undertaken this issue. I knew that going in.
I remain convince this is an important issue for our country to confront and to solve. I felt like I was in a position to try to make a positive difference. Any time you pass any law or any bill, it’s not going to be perfect. It’s going to have parts of it you agree with strongly. It’s going to have parts of it you perhaps wish were different, as is the case with this bill. But, ultimately, I continue to believe it’s an important issue for our nation to confront, because the alternative is to leave things the way they are right now and I would continue to argue that the way things are right now is a de facto amnesty.
Now, is there a way to improve upon what the Senate did? Probably. I’m sure there is. And that’s why I hope the House will work on here and they deserve the time and space to be able to do that.
WALLACE: Senator Rubio, we want to thank you. Thanks for sharing part of your weekend with us, and it’s always good to talk with you, sir.
RUBIO: Thank you. Thank you.
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