Exclusive: Marco Rubio on why he is running for president

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 13, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And welcome to "Hannity." And tonight, we are broadcasting from Miami, Florida, because just two hours ago, Florida Senator Marco Rubio announced he's officially running for president. He'll be with us for the entire hour.

But first, here's how things went down earlier today.


SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA., PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: For almost all of human history, power and wealth belonged only to a select few. Most people who have ever lived were trapped by the circumstances of their birth, destined to live the life their parents had. But America is different because here we are the children and the grandchildren of people who refused to accept this.

Well, now the time has come for our generation to lead the way towards a new American century.


RUBIO: That is why tonight, grounded by the lessons of our history but inspired by the promise of our future, I announce my candidacy for president of the United States!



HANNITY: And joining us now is Florida Senator Marco Rubio.


HANNITY: Senator, you made your announcement today. You talked about the son of a bartender and a son of a maid and a new American century. Why do you -- why do you want to run for president of the United States?

RUBIO: I believe this is a country that's always been defined by upward mobility and by the ability for equality of opportunity, and I feel we're losing it now. And we're losing it because we're not capitalizing on the opportunities or confronting the challenges of this new era. And we're never going to be able to do that as long as we're being led by people who are trapped in the 20th century.

It's time for 21st century leadership. It's time to move forward and embrace the opportunity and challenges of this new century, and I believe I'm ready to do that and that's why I'm running for president.

HANNITY: Senator, the next president will inherit an economy where we have $20 trillion in debt, $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities, 93 million Americans outside the labor force, nearly 50 million Americans in poverty, and for 40 straight months, 46-plus million Americans on food stamps.

How can -- those problems seem insurmountable. How do we solve them?  How do you balance the budget?


RUBIO: ... I think we're not fulfilling our potential as a nation.  As I said today, we could balance our budget, reform the tax code, reduce regulations, repeal and replace ObamaCare. I believe the American people -- and this economy will not just be the best economy in the world, it'll create millions of better-paying jobs.

The second thing we have to do is we have to help people acquire the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century. Right now, we have an outdated 21st -- 20th century education model. We need a 21st century higher education model that stops graduating people with degrees that do not lead to jobs.

These are the keys to restoring economic vibrancy in this country.  This is the 21st century approach that we need to adopt.

HANNITY: It's interesting because you talked about your candidacy being somewhat improbable, and how rich and powerful -- but you said this is an exceptional country, where you might be able to come from humble roots and then rise -- you know, not somebody of power and privilege, and rise to be able to run for president of the United States.

RUBIO: Yes, I think people watching around the world say, you know, usually, the highest office in the land is reserved for someone who came from power and privilege themselves. But I live in a country where no matter where you start out in life, you could have the same dreams and the same future as someone who did come from power and privilege.

HANNITY: Let's start specifics, and let's talk about how do you get 93 million Americans out of the labor force -- how do we get them jobs?  How do we get them back to work? How do we get them off food stamps?

RUBIO: Well, it begins by having a vibrant 21st century economy that allows us to be globally competitive. That means reforming the tax code.  That means lowering regulations. That means repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

These are the key -- and by fully utilizing our energy resources. If we did these things, we would have massive, rapid economic growth in our country. The second is you have to equip people with the skills they need for those better-paying jobs that that economy will create. And again, we stopped graduating people from high school ready to go to work. We stopped graduating people ready to go to work as welders and electricians and airplane mechanics.

And the other thing is we're graduating people from college with a bunch of debt loans and unable to find a job in the economy.

HANNITY: How would you specifically balance the budget? I mean, it seems that if you reduce the rate of increase, Republicans have said that they're cold and callous and they don't care about the rich -- they only care about the rich, they don't care about the poor, the elderly, the disabled. How do we balance a budget that is so out of balance, specifically?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, it has to be the combination of spending discipline. We have to bring future spending under control by entitlement reform. We want to save Medicare and Social Security. Those programs are going to have to look different for my generation than they did for my parents'.

And second, we need to have dynamic economic growth, which is why Mike Lee and I have proposed a tax reform plan that would lead to rapid dynamic economic growth.

HANNITY: And you would reduce the capital -- the corporate income tax from 30 to 25 percent, personal income tax from 40 to 35. I've gone over your plan.

One of the things Republicans have been unwilling to do is use their constitutional authority, the power of the purse, for example, to defund ObamaCare. Is that a mistake of the Republican Party?

RUBIO: Yes, I think we should be a lot more aggressive about it. But the truth is, we need a new president to get rid of ObamaCare. As long as Obama's president, we're not going to be able -- he's going to veto anything that gets rid of ObamaCare. I think one of the first things this new president needs to do is work with what I hope will be a Republican majority in Congress to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

HANNITY: How do you define yourself, Senator, politically? I would say I'm a Reagan constitutional conservative. How would you define yourself?

RUBIO: I'm a free enterprise, limited government conservative. I'm a strong America conservative. I'm an exceptional America conservative. I believe that the government has a role to play, but it's a limited one.  The family's more important. The private sector's more important. There are things government needs to do. I believe in the safety net -- not as a lifestyle, not as a way of life, but as a way to help people who are struggling to get back on their feet and try again.

HANNITY: One of the things that has come up regarding your candidacy is that -- when you said that if you run, you will not run for the Senate again. Is that hardened and in stone? Is this a -- this is it. You're running for president.

RUBIO: Yes, I'm running for president of the United States, and that's what my campaign is about.

HANNITY: No fallback.

RUBIO: I don't have a plan B to pivot back to the Senate race. I intend to be the nominee. And that's why I think it's important for us to have a strong candidate in Florida who's out there working now. If I went around talking about how I would pivot back to the Senate race if things didn't work out, our best candidates may not run.

HANNITY: You said of the biggest issues and problem that maybe you have with conservatives is the issue of immigration, and you went for comprehensive reform. You've since said that it was a mistake and you said until we prove illegal immigration can be brought under control, the American people won't trust us on that.



RUBIO: That's right, because...

HANNITY: And it's not a change in position, or is it?

RUBIO: No. I think we need to -- we still need to do immigration reform. I talked today about needing to modernize our immigration system.  And I think the American people are prepared to do that, but not until they know that future illegal immigration is under control.

And right now, they have a president that refuses to enforce the immigration laws -- in fact, through executive order, has ordered his agencies not to enforce those immigration laws. So I think immigration reform as long as Barack Obama's president is virtually impossible.


RUBIO: I think we need a president that first begins to enforce our laws, puts in place methods that improve the way we enforce the law. And if we do that, then I think people will be very reasonable after that...

HANNITY: Do you think...

RUBIO: ... about what to do with the 12 million that are here.

HANNITY: Well, that's the next question. If you think the government can prove they can secure the border -- and it's having a huge impact on the educational system, our health care system, our criminal justice system. If you think you can prove that with immigration, what is the step, in your mind, for those 12 million people?

RUBIO: Well...

HANNITY: It's not citizenship.

RUBIO: Again, I think that if you're in this country and you violated our immigration laws, you should be able -- after we've proven that illegal immigration's not going to happen in the future, that we have systems in place to keep that from happening, you have to come forward, undergo a background check, pay a fine, start paying taxes.

And what you would get is a work visa that allows you to be in this country to work and to travel. And that's all you should be allowed to have for at least a decade or longer. And after that, they would be allowed to apply for permanent residency, but just like anybody else would, not a special process.

I know that there are people out there that say, No, they should only have the work permit for the rest of their lives. I don't think that's necessarily a good idea, but if that's the only way we can move forward on it, I would explore it.

HANNITY: Let me talk about your experience. I know as soon as you go out in the mainstream media, the liberal media, they're going to say, why do you have the experience to be president? It didn't work out so well with Senator Obama becoming President Obama. What is your answer to that?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, President Obama's been a failure not because he was only in the Senate for four years. He's been a failure because his ideas are bad. I don't care if he had been in the Senate for 50 years. If he had done what he's done now, he would have failed, too.  His ideas don't work.

Second of all, there's major differences. I served nine years in the Florida legislature in the majority, two of them as speaker of the House in the third largest state in the country. I wasn't a legislative back bencher. I'll have served a full term in the Senate before I'm president.

I've taken seriously my role on both the Intelligence Committee and the foreign policy -- and the Foreign Relations Committee. So I think there's some dramatic differences. But the biggest is his ideas don't work, and ours do.

HANNITY: All right. Last question before we go to break here. I noticed the media has been trying to pit you against Jeb Bush. Some recent headlines -- pitting locals to pick what was (ph) sides here, or forcing locals to pick sides, at odds with his mentor. In 2012, Rubio asked, what would Jeb do?

What was -- what is the relationship now with the former governor?  You had a very close relationship.

RUBIO: And we still do. We're friends, and I consider him a friend and he's someone I admire and respect. I'm not running against Jeb Bush, if he decides to run. I'm running because I believe I'm the right person at the right time and for this country.

And obviously, voters are going to ultimately make that decision. I still have tremendous respect for him, as I do for other people in this race that are friends of mine and that I respect.

And I think -- we're lucky in our party. We have many strong candidates. The Democrats are struggling to come up with even one.

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