Interviews

Is there a rift in the Republican Party? Sen. Marco Rubio reacts

Florida lawmaker weighs in on contested issues

 

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," August 1, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Welcome, everybody. I'm Neil Cavuto. And this is "Your World."

Moments away from Marco Rubio here to weigh in, among other things, this Republican I guess you can call it brouhaha captivating the nation, and actually first foaming here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: We're going to have to patch things up. If we can sit down -- I'm inviting him for a beer. Any time he'd like to come down and sit down at the pub right around the corner from the Senate, we will have a beer.

CAVUTO: Have you heard anything on that invite?

PAUL: Excuse me?

CAVUTO: Have you heard anything on that invite?

PAUL: It hasn't been formalized. I just thought of it.

CAVUTO: Just now?

PAUL: So, we will formalize it and we will put it in writing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: Well, no need, because what a difference a day makes, and 24 hours after my chat with Rand Paul went viral, the beer summit effectively went dead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, R-N.J.: It was never about Senator Paul until Senator Paul tried to make it about me and made it personal.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He suggested maybe the two of you sit down and have a beer and bury the hatchet.

CHRISTIE: I'm running for reelection in New Jersey. I don't really have time for that at the moment.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAVUTO: All right, well, talk this day on blogs and news shows and newspapers everywhere of an open rift in the Grand Old Party between traditional Republicans big on defense and fighting terror, i.e., Governor Christie, and those who argue not if that fight compromises our basic privacy and the government abuses all our privacies, i.e., Senator Paul.

Now to the man many argue is uncomfortably caught in the middle of this party food fight, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, who, like those other two gentlemen, is often mentioned as a potential presidential candidate himself.

So, Senator, I quickly inserted you in this food fight. That was my doing, not yours.

(LAUGHTER)

CAVUTO: What do you make of it? And do you think it's much ado about nothing or does the party have a problem on its hands?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: Yes, well, first of all, it's an interesting dynamic that's playing out and I will let them figure that out.

But it's an important debate. I think the question -- I think the answer to the question is, we have to do both. We do have to protect not just privacy rights, but privacy expectations. And I understand when we have a government that has targeted people, the IRS has targeted Americans because of their political views. Of course, Americans are concerned how the government and how it is going to use information that it has about them.

On the other hand, we know these programs are essential and important because they have been able to foil attacks in the past and will do so again in the future.

So, I think the fundamental question we have -- and it's not -- we can trivialize it, but it's a very significant issue -- is on the one hand how do we prevent terrorist attacks in the future? We know that terrorists use technology to coordinate. And I got to say, Neil, if Usama bin Laden was calling someone in the United States, we would want to know that because I promise you his wasn't his stockbroker he was calling.

On the other hand, I think people need to know and people need to be comfortable that the government is not going to gather all this information on them and one day in the future use it against them or have it leaked for commercial purposes.

This is a legitimate issue. We shouldn't trivialize that either. And balancing those two things is not an easy thing to do. And I think what we're struggling with as a country, is how to protect Americans and also protect Americans, but also protect their individual liberties and their privacy expectations. It's not a trivial issue. And it's an important one for us to try to balance, and we just haven't worked it out yet.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: Maybe so, sir, but it looks like Republican are having a hard time reconciling those two extremes, because to hear Senator Paul tell it, if we're getting these constant reports out of the NSA that it went beyond just collecting over 115 million Americans' phone records, to the latest news that is was every e-mail, every -- every site folks went on, so much information, so fast, that they really couldn't even hold it that long because it was just too massive to hold, that does raise the kind of concerns that Senator Paul has had that Chris Christie seemed to dismiss.

What do you think?

RUBIO: Yes.

But, first of all, of course, we always need to be reviewing the scope of what the government is doing and whether it's justified, and that should be constantly reviewed. The problem with reviewing it of course is that the tactics that the government uses to gather intelligence, the more public it is, the easier it is for our enemies to evade it. So it makes it difficult to have the kind of open debate on these issues.

CAVUTO: Right.

RUBIO: And there's some misinformation in the press about how these programs work too.

On the other hand, I wouldn't dismiss these concerns offhand. Again if you're back home and you all of a sudden realize the government has the capability and in fact is gathering information on every phone call made in America, you're concerned about how that could be used at some point in the future not just by the government but by individuals working for the government, and by somebody who all of a sudden in the future may decide to politically target people. That's a legitimate concern.

So, again, I'm not trying -- I don't think we should trivialize the debate beyond the personalities involved. It's a very significant balancing act. These are important programs. We have to be able to do some of this, but we also have to figure out a way to do it in a way that Americans have more confidence.

And I think a lot of that starts by leadership that people have confidence in. And when you have reports out there that the IRS has targeted Americans, that undermines that confidence.

CAVUTO: All right, now, it sounds like you're slightly more to the side of sort of the libertarian thinking on this. Yes, protect us, but not at the expense of going too far.

RUBIO: Well, I think we have to be able -- Neil, I think we have got to be able to do both.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I understand, sir. But the reason why I even mention it is that there's been some shifting on your part, or so it would appear, on a couple of key issues, from immigration reform to ObamaCare and maybe defunding it, that are closer in line with that libertarian point of view espoused by Senators Lee and Cruz and others who argue that in the case of ObamaCare, just defund it.

That's something that you hadn't been talking about months ago, but now are leading an uphill fight to make happen now.

RUBIO: Well, actually, Neil, I campaigned on repealing ObamaCare, and what I have said now is we're now on the -- we had all hoped the Supreme Court would have thrown it out. We had all hoped that an election would have elected a Republican president, would have helped us repeal it. That didn't happen. And so now we're faced with a different dynamic.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But even Senator Cruz says this is unlikely to happen, that he thinks he's got an uphill fight, this defunding effort.

(CROSSTALK)

RUBIO: Well, it is. It is, but I think we can still win it, because, quite frankly, what other choice do we have but to fight on this issue?

If Republicans and conservatives are not going to draw a line in the sand on this issue, if we're not willing to say this is the issue we're willing to fight to the end on, then what issue are we willing to do that on? And so I think this an important moment. I think a year ago when there was still hopes of winning the election or a year-and-a-half ago, when there was still hopes the Supreme Court would throw this out, that was a different time. But we now realize this is it. The exchanges are supposed to come up October 1. The individual mandate is still in place. Americans are going to start losing their existing coverage. People are already being moved from full-time work to part-time work because of Obamacare. After this September it's going to get harder and harder to do anything about this law.

CAVUTO: But if you can't defund it, then you have wasted your time. Right?

RUBIO: I think we can defund it. Again, I think we can defund it.

CAVUTO: OK.

RUBIO: For example, I think we can definitely defund these exchanges which are already turning into a disaster. Just moments ago, I saw a news report and the state of Ohio is reporting that individual market in Ohio, the premiums are going up by 40 percent. In my home state, a report two days ago from the insurance commissioner, the premiums are going up 30 to 40 percent. Every day brings a slew of bad news. Reports last month that over 300,000 Americans have been shifted from full-time work to part-time work.

Every single day now, the reality of ObamaCare is starting to hurt real people, Republicans, Democrats. Real people are being hurt by this.

CAVUTO: You mention your state as well, Senator, and your governor, Rick Scott, made some news earlier today by demanding that Jesse Jackson apologize to Floridians for all but calling them racist, and saying that in light of the Zimmerman verdict, that the state had been mischaracterized, and he really should dial it back.

What do you think of that?

RUBIO: Well, I think Jesse Jackson unfortunately has a long history of making outrageous comments and the only thing sadder than those comments is the fact that people still pay attention to some of them.

The truth of the matter is that what he said is outrageous. It is. But I think for people that live in Florida or have visited Florida know how outrageous those comments are. But he has a long history of saying these outrageous things in order to get noticed and in order to continue to be relevant in these debates. And I think it's unfortunate, but I also don't think we should pay much attention to it.

CAVUTO: All right.

I do want to switch to the immigration reform.

RUBIO: Yes.

CAVUTO: You were part of the group of eight, Gang of Eight to try to cobble together some sort of agreement. Some of your colleagues in that group are scratching their heads over you seemingly switching positions a little bit.

And maybe you can clarify, Senator...

RUBIO: Well, I don't know...

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I just want to be clear here.

On the House measure that now says for enforcement first and then deal with amnesty later, I think you had mentioned that you were open to that, which would be very different than the measure you were putting together.

RUBIO: Well, first of all, let's clarify something.

The Senate bill did have enforcement first. It had enforcement before anybody could stay here permanently. The only thing I have said is, what do we do with the people that are illegally in the meantime? We have to account for them some way. If the House has a better way of accounting for them, I would be open-minded on it.

I think the question you're referring to is, I was asked would I vote for a bill that only did border security? My answer is, of course I would. Border security, irrespective of whether you have illegal immigration problems or not, is a fundamental obligation of the federal government and it's a key part of our sovereignty.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: I understand that, sir, but the Senate put two together, your right, with enforcement first, amnesty, whatever you want to call it, later. But the House is saying, no, don't deal with the latter. Just do this enforcement thing first, which the Gang of Eight, some of your fellow members, and those passed it in the Senate are saying, wait a minute, this changes everything.

RUBIO: Well, I don't think the House has said anything yet. We haven't seen them produce any legislation.

I think some House members may have said that, but I think we should give the House space and time to figure out what they're for. And the only thing that I have said different from perhaps some of the other folks here in the Senate that you outlined earlier is I don't think we should be marching down to the House and forcing them and saying, take up the Senate bill or nothing at all.

What I have been saying is we need to give the House the time, space, and respect they deserve to come up with their own ideas and their own solutions. That's what I have said. And I think that's -- if people want a result, if they really want a result and not a talking point, that's the approach they should take.

CAVUTO: Senator -- and I mean this with the greater respect -- I always feel that you try to be the adult in the room. You try to find the logical, calm way to move forward, a middle ground, but you're torn it would seem between the more consecutive elements of your party, pure the libertarians in your party.

And a lot of people have likened it to what Republicans were going through in 1964 when the Nelson Rockefeller liberals and the Barry Goldwater conservatives. And we all know what happened later that election year.

Do you fear that, whatever side you're on, and whatever side viewers watching this right now think you're on or others are on, that this is going to be a disaster for Republicans? They can't get their act together, their point of view together.

RUBIO: No. No.

Look, I think at the end of the day, we're the pro-growth party, we're the party of upward mobility and for the middle class. These are important national security debates. These are new issues we're facing for the first time. Terrorists didn't use cell phones 25 years ago. This is a new issue that we're confronting.

And it's difficult sometimes to balance the privacy expectations of Americans with the reality that the federal government has a very significant obligation to provide for security. And so I think this is an important debate to have people bring strong feelings. But I don't think that we only have two choices here. I think we are capable of doing both, protecting the privacy expectations of Americans, but also protecting Americans from those who choose to harm them.

CAVUTO: John McCain sings your praises, thinks that you're going places. I'm paraphrasing here. He joked in a magazine interview that if he had a choice between Rand Paul and he were the party's nominee and Hillary Clinton, he would have to think about it. Now, he was chuckling as he mentioned it, but it did maybe remind folks that this division I talk about is real, and that maybe it hurts you getting Senator McCain liking you, if the view is that he is part of the old guard.

RUBIO: Well, look, at the end of the day, I think we all need to stand for what we believe in, and I think the Republican Party is big enough in order for there to be a vibrant debate on these issues.

But ultimately we need to be not just the opposition to Barack Obama and the left. We need to be the alternative, an alternative that shows people how we can grow this economy, get upward mobility going in America again and increase more opportunities for the people to climb up the economic ladder. That's what we need to be about and that's the one message I hope we will all unite behind.

CAVUTO: All right, real quickly, sir. You have been very patient. These phony scandals the White House keeps referring to, the IRS, Benghazi, et al, what do you make of that?

RUBIO: They're not phony scandals.

Benghazi, real people died as a result of negligence and perhaps even more, and in terms of the IRS, I don't know how that is phony. These are individual Americans and their groups that were targeted because of their political views. There's nothing phony about that. That's perhaps the ultimate abuse of power.

CAVUTO: All right. Senator, very good seeing you again, Senator Marco Rubio.

RUBIO: Thank you.

CAVUTO: Be well.

RUBIO: Thank you.

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