Rubio: Every year we wait, the harder it is to solve

Exclusive: Florida senator on battle over debt limit, economic crisis


This is a rush transcript from "Your World," May 17, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST OF "YOUR WORLD": Welcome, everyone. I’m Neil Cavuto.

Fifteen point-seven trillion dollars and counting, that is where the cumulative debt stands right now. Right now, it’s about $4,000 more since I said that. That might not be a crisis to the treasury secretary of the United States, but it is to a rising senator in the United States.

Mitt Romney already hitting hard on the issue in Florida for a second day.

And now to one of his potential running mates weighing in on it today.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio addressing the issue a short time ago with me in this exclusive chat.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: There’s the crisis right there, is the fact that Geithner doesn’t think there is one. I mean, the president’s budget, who he worked for, was just voted down yesterday 99-nothing. Not even the Democrats will vote for the president’s budget. And the Senate Democrats haven’t offered a budget in over three-and-a-half years.

I mean, do people back home fully understand what I just explained? The Democrats in Washington that control the Senate have not offered a budget in three-and-a-half years, almost four years now. This government has spent close to $10 trillion since the budget was last passed by them.

So, for those that don’t like the Ryan budget, for example, like the president, where’s their budget? Where’s Harry Reid’s budget? Where’s the Democrats’ and the Senate’s budget?

Look, I understand at the end of the day in order to get a budget, both sides are going to have to give and take a little bit. But how can you give and take, or as you called it, back and forth, if the other side’s not even at the table? And I think that’s outrageous. And I think for the secretary of the treasury to say that there is no crisis when this government will again this year spend over a trillion dollars more than it takes in, I think that right there is the crisis --


CAVUTO: I think what the secretary was referring to and responding to were these threats that’s how he characterized them from Speaker John Boehner that when we come to this debt ceiling, it could be late this summer, could be later. Technically you could push it off even beyond that that if there isn’t a corresponding amount of spending cuts to go along with however much you raise the debt ceiling, he won’t go for that. The president is I guess has made very clear, Senator, he won’t go for that.

So, here, then, another debt ceiling crisis. You think one’s going to happen?

RUBIO: Well, we are having a debt ceiling crisis on a daily basis, and here’s why. Because this government every year is spending $1. 5 trillion more than it takes in. Now, I think what the speaker is saying is, let’s use the next debt limit expiration as an opportunity to begin to deal with this thing in a serious way. And the last one just came and went, and it wasn’t dealt with in a serious way.

When is the United States federal government and when is this president going to begin to seriously address the fact that this is a government that spends $1. 5 trillion a year more than it takes in? That has to be dealt with. That is not going to solve itself. It’s not going to go away on its own. And every year that goes by that it remains unresolved, the harder it becomes to solve.

So, I think that’s what the speaker is trying to say, is where’s the sense of urgency here?

CAVUTO: Bill Clinton had some thoughts on this matter, speaking at an investment conference center, saying maybe the only answer really and realistically down the road are across-the-board tax increases on everyone, not just the rich. In other words, when the rates old Bush rates expire, what he seems to be saying is let them all expire. What do you make of that?

RUBIO: Well, if you raise taxes on people that don’t have jobs, what’s the point? If you raise taxes on an economy that isn’t growing, you’re going to destroy it. There is only one solution, but the solution is growth. This economy has to grow. The only way for us to find ourselves out of this problem that we face today is the combination of rapid, explosive economic growth combined with a new sense of fiscal discipline. So, hold the line on spending and grow your economy really fast.

And the problem with the tax increases that former president Clinton is outlining is that they will prevent or hold back the kind of rapid economic growth that we need. Now, if our economy grows really fast, then you’re going to have more taxpayers. That means you don’t need more taxes. You’re going to get more taxpayers. More people working, more people paying taxes, more people making more money, which means from a monetary perspective, they’ll pay more in taxes.

And then if we have fiscal discipline to use that money to pay down the debt, that’s how you solve this problem. And I think that’s something that both parties should be able to agree on. But unfortunately, it’s become part of this, you know, back and forth in the political cycle.

CAVUTO: I want to bring in because there’s this is related if you think about it.

Eduardo Saverin, as you know, wants to renounce his U.S. citizenship. He’s Brazilian by birth, but I think he wants to set up shop in Singapore. That got Chuck Schumer and a number of others upset, saying that he should be punished for that. That anyone who renounces their citizenship should be subject to retroactive taxes shouldn’t be allowed back into country. What do you make of that?

RUBIO: Well, look, it’s not a fun story to listen to or a pleasant one, obviously. I’m not going to celebrate what he’s done or the decision that he’s made. I’m also but I think the bigger issue here, and we were elected to deal with the big issues, not one guy.

And the bigger issue here is that there are people who are increasingly finding it more cost effective to invest their money overseas in other countries because the U.S. tax burden is becoming uncompetitive. And when you add to that the U.S. regulations burden, it becomes even less competitive.

And so, on the bigger issue and the one we should really be focused on is the fact that every single year, the U.S. is becoming a less and less friendly place for some people to do business. And people are looking to move their companies and their assets overseas because of that. So, I think that’s really the issue we should focus on more. I’m not excusing what he’s done. I’m not celebrating it. I’m not telling you I’m happy about what I’ve read with regard to this one person and the decision that he’s made.


CAVUTO: But would you punish him, as Senator Schumer wants to do? In other words, he renounced his citizenship. He’s never welcome back.

RUBIO: I haven’t studied that and to decide whether we should go after one person. I’m not happy about what I’ve read. And I think I think that’s the law now, by the way. I just think it hasn’t been enforced. I think the law now is that if you renounce your citizenship in order to avoid paying taxes, you’re not allowed back in. So, maybe they’re just asking for the law to be enforced, and that’s fine with me.

But I don’t think we should be distracted from the big issue. And the big issue, the important one, the one that really, really matters is the fact that the combination of our taxes and our regulations is making America a harder place to do business while other places are becoming easier to do business. And we’re losing jobs because of that, and we have to stop that from happening.

CAVUTO: You mentioned regulations. A lot of your colleagues from the other side of the aisle, Senator, are saying in light of this, J.P. Morgan trade snafu, maybe we need more regulations. Maybe what we’ve done on Dodd-Frank hasn’t been enough or wasn’t enforced enough. The president favors more regulations; Mitt Romney does not. Where do you stand?

RUBIO: Well, J.P. Morgan lost money because they made a bad decision. Businesses lose money all the time. Some people go out of business because they make bad decisions. And you know who they’re accountable to? Their shareholders. They had a shareholder meeting, happened to be in Florida this week. I guarantee you the shareholders weren’t happy about the decision that they made or why it happened. And I think that they’re accountable to their shareholders, who are going to hold the board and the decision makers responsible for this money that they lost.

But I’m not sure even the existing regulations the president has advocated for could prevent businesses from making bad decisions and losing money. And certainly I think the shareholders of J.P. Morgan are going to hold them accountable because of that.

But what I don’t think we can afford is a set of regulations in this country that send out the message that America’s not the right place to do business. Open your business somewhere else because it’s easier and more competitive to do it there. That’s what costs us jobs and that’s what’s going to prevent the kind of economic growth that we need in order to generate the revenue we need to pay down our debt.

CAVUTO: You’ve entered the political arena in a way that maybe you didn’t intend. Ever since your election, you’ve become a phenomenon in the party. Many have you on a short list to be Mitt Romney’s running mate.

But then we get these reports, Senator, that some Romney aides, while they’re impressed with you personally, they think you’re too young, too inexperienced. Not that you’re pitching yourself for the job, but what do you think of that sentiment.

RUBIO: Oh, I don’t know. I’ve said repeatedly I’m not going to discuss the vice presidential selection process. I’m not going to discuss it in any way. I think they’ve got a good process in place that Mitt Romney has a long history of making good decisions in his personal life, in his business life, in his political life. So, I have no doubt he’s going to make a great selection as his running mate. And I’m confident of that, and I’m curious to see who it’s going to be, like everybody is I’m going to respect that process --


CAVUTO: But the argument against you -- and I know you don’t want to (INAUDIBLE) that. I commend you for that. But if the argument is, well, he hasn’t been vetted enough --


CAVUTO: -- looking at Florida, and that race in Florida, you seem to have been aggressively vetted. Maybe they’re concerned about another Palin-type deal. But what do you thinks’ going on?

RUBIO: Well, look, again, I’m not going to comment on the vice-presidential process --

CAVUTO: Please do. Please do!

RUBIO: No, I won’t. And look I’m more than happy to talk to you about who I am and you know, obviously you followed my race when we were in Florida. It was a pretty intense race, and even in the time that I’ve been here in the U.S. Senate, I think we’ve gotten our share of attention. Not always attention I liked, but attention nonetheless.

And I certainly feel very qualified to serve here and happy to be here. Feel blessed to be here. Hope I can make a difference here in the United States on behalf of the people that sent me here in Florida.

CAVUTO: Do you think Mitt Romney would need a Latino on his ticket, though? He’s made inroads with women. In fact, ironically, opposed to this so-called attack on women, he is now doing better in polls with women. Not so with Latinos. Does he need a Latino on his ticket?

RUBIO: You know, I’ll tell you what I think this country needs.

And that is someone who is going to make things better than they have been in the last three and a half years. All these elections, at the end of the day -- when and incumbent president is running for reelection, the election is a very simple equation.

Are you better off today than you were four years ago when this person took over? And if that’s what this election is about, if that’s what this election is about -- and that’s what this election should be about -- Mitt Romney’s going to be our next president. Because there’s no way Barack Obama, with a straight face, can come before the American people and argue that somehow, he has made things better than they were when he got here as President of the United States.

And so I think that Mitt Romney has to be very clear that these are the things he would have done differently. And I think he’s beginning to make that argument in a very compelling way, and when he does, I think that’s going to appeal to all Americans, including Americans of Hispanic descent, who have felt the pinch of this economy, perhaps more than any other group in America over the last few years.

CAVUTO: Are you surprised that Republicans on the gay issue, by the way, are uncomfortable with it? That they don’t, more forcefully say, maybe at the risk of being branded in the press as out of step or out of touch with reality -- it’s between a man and a woman. As Mitt Romney said, and man, he got pilloried the next day, when he did. That there’s almost a reluctance, like you’re walking on quicksand to even delve into this.

RUBIO: Well I don’t know if that’s true. I mean, look, I think that the bottom line is that -- I’m not saying all Republicans, but certainly, I do believe that marriage is an institution where there’s a union between one man and one woman, and that’s my personal belief. I think people of good faith can disagree with me, and in many states, they have made a different decision than that. And that’s a fact --

CAVUTO: Well do you think that should be encoded in our Constitution, that there should be an amendment that states that?

RUBIO: Well, I think ultimately, marriage has always been regulated by states, so I think that’s where it remains and where it should remain. I think that’s what most people believe, but what I think you’re pointing to is a different issue. And that is, you want to know my opinion on marriage, I’ll give you my opinion on marriage, and that is that’s a union between one man and one woman. And that’s what it is in Florida, for example, because the voters wanted it to be that way in the state Constitution.

But we also need to understand what’s happening here. The president chose this issue, and he chose to take on this issue the last few weeks, for political reasons. Number one, he did it for political reasons because he doesn’t want to talk about the economy. What I just pointed to you a moment ago, are you better off today than you were four years ago. He doesn’t want that to be what this election is about. And so it’s not just on gay marriage, I think every week he’ll roll out another issue to distract from it.

CAVUTO: But senator, he had to know that by stating that opinion so strongly, he would lose North Carolina. The latest polls show that he’s down in North Carolina, that it might tip Indiana, going back to the Republicans. The latest polls seem to indicate that. And Virginia --


CAVUTO: I’m not saying this is the issue. But I am saying that it might not have been so politically calculated. It might have been maybe to raise money; maybe you’re right on that.


CAVUTO: But the political calculation is that he doesn’t get any more electoral votes for it.

RUBIO: Well, first of all, I think they’ve actually admitted that it was politically calculated, because they said they were going to make this decision anyway, they just want to do it closer to the convention.

So it’s not a question of when -- of if -- it was a question of when. He admitted that he was going to announce this anyway; he just wanted it to be around the convention, he wanted it to be even more dramatic. So of course this was all about politics.

And it’s not just about politics. It’s also about distraction. It’s because he doesn’t want to have to answer the question that I said earlier. Are you better off than you were four years ago? This president, he knows. You know, Barack Obama and his folks are smart enough to understand that if this election is about the economy, and how it’s performed in the three and a half years that he’s been president, he can’t win reelection. The American people are not going to give him another four years to do what he’s done the last four years with the economy.

He knows that. So they’re going to want it to be about anything but the economy. And this is part of that effort to distract from that, and I think people see it for what it is. I really do.


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