OTR Interviews

Rubio: There's a lack of urgency and people are angry

GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio goes 'On the Record' on why outsiders like Trump and Carson are leading in 2016 polls, Obama mocking GOP debate demands, whether he can work with Democrats, the $43M wasted on a US-funded gas station in Afghanistan


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," November 3, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now. GOP presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio is here to go ON THE RECORD.

Senator Rubio surging in the polls since last week's debate. The new "Wall Street Journal/NBC" poll showing Rubio in third place with 11 percent. And now our conversation with candidate Rubio.

Senator nice to see you, sir.


VAN SUSTEREN: You've had a good week or so. In particular, the reports at the debate. You had a good debate. You've gotten endorsement of Paul Azinger, a billionaire. You've gotten Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado, that's big. And I saw on Twitter that you have a new short ad that talks about your vision and the future. All that is good. So here comes "the but," and this is not just for you but for the House, the Senate and the president.

A report came out from the inspector general in Afghanistan that a gas station that should have cost anywhere from 200,000 to $500,000 cost $43 million. So, where is the house? Where is the Senate? Where is the president and where were you?

RUBIO: That's right. Well, first of all, the oversight on this is not just limited to that. Spending in Afghanistan has been an issue for years in terms of the money being misspent. The oversight committee are supposed to have oversight over how that money is being spent. Both the defense oversight committee and overall, in general oversight committees in both the House and the Senate. And I hope' they'll take that inspector general report and do something about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: It's too late, though. It's $43 million.

RUBIO: Well, but we still have --


VAN SUSTEREN: And I think -- and I think this is why so many people are talking about outsiders. It's sort of like y'all had your chance. And this is the kind of spending who doesn't go for education, it doesn't go for infrastructure, $43 million. I mean, this is the tip of the iceberg.

RUBIO: Sure. But first of all, that issue in Afghanistan, that's not the first time that we find wasteful spending and how the money is being spent there.

VAN SUSTEREN: Of course, not.

RUBIO: There's other examples of it elsewhere. And that's, for example, why I have been pushing hard for the Foreign Aid Accountability Bill that I filed in the United States Senate that we can't get movement on.

That's the reason why on these issues that you talked about, it is important for us to be engaged in the world, but not in a way that throws away money. In the case of Afghanistan, it is a place with deep amount of corruption, obviously a deep amount of instability. And that's where you get these sorts of outcomes such as this.

VAN SUSTEREN: But it's not even theirs. We have building in the United States that are empty. Federal buildings that are empty just sitting there that were paid for --

RUBIO: Well, the federal government doesn't even know all the property that it owns. It doesn't even have a clear inventory over all the land and property. If you ask them tomorrow give me a list of every building you own in the country, they can't even produce that for you. They don't know even their own real estate inventory.

VAN SUSTEREN: So that brings me the questions that, you know -- probably the outsiders versus the insiders that many of the voters I assume might be sitting there thinking that for you, Senator Cruz, and Senator Rand Paul have been inside is like, you know, time suspect. You know, we still have these problems and you're lovely nice people, but you know, we've got these problems, you know.


RUBIO: But I've been in the Senate for four and a half years. Four of those years under Democratic leadership in the Senate, where nothing happened, where Harry Reid allowed nothing to move forward. We can come up with all the greatest ideas in the world. If you have a Senate majority leader that has paralyzed the Senate and a president that isn't serious about doing anything, you are limited in our republic by making progress. It's one of the reasons why I'm running for president.

VAN SUSTEREN: As president, what could you do and would you make this commitment because I think it has now come to the point when you look at things like this. We got to look at indictments.

RUBIO: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, enough of this stuff with these contracts, because if you can figure out if Dennis Hastert can get an indictment for lying to the FBI or Martha Stewart to the FBI, I can't imagine --


RUBIO: Well, certainly those criminal activity would be an indictment from the Justice Department.


VAN SUSTEREN: But I mean, is anybody looking at that?

RUBIO: Well, remember, the report just came out, but if you talk about what's happening here with this, it's not just an indictment of the individuals of those criminal wrongdoing, but also accountability. At the end of the day, there were individuals involved in the spending of this money where there was the State Department, USAID or the Department of Defense. And there has to be oversight over that as well as the way our contracting processes.

VAN SUSTEREN: But oversight is too late. That's almost like after thought. I mean, something has got to be done fundamentally. And I really think it has got to come to that point, where people are prosecuted for, you know, fraud or at least investing it, I should say.

RUBIO: Well, there is fraud, there is no doubt about it. But beyond the fraud issue is the incompetence issue. And, again, there is a variety of different ways that we spend money in places like Afghanistan. Some is through USAID, some is through the Department of State, some is through the Department of Defense.

Those are executive agencies that should be responding to someone at the executive branch that's overseeing how these programs are being implemented.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would a President Rubio make a commitment that, you know, the fraud and waste, we're not just going to do lip service to it, but you know, we are really going to be aggressive about it.

RUBIO: Well, for example, there is an area you don't touch. It has nothing to do with this. It's Medicare fraud. Medicare fraud, I happen to live in a community in South Florida, which leads the country in Medicare fraud.

Billions of dollars a year being stolen in fraudulent claims that quite frankly if you're only -- I've had FBI agents tell me if you're only willing -- if you are willing to only steal $200,000 a month from Medicare, they are never going to catch you because they don't have the resources to prosecute. Those are billions of dollars right there that are being spent.

And that's an issue I have been harping on for years about the need to reform the way we pay out Medicare benefits, perhaps requiring providers under Medicare to have a bond, an antifraud bond that would knock out a lot of these fly by nights because this people are setting up shop, they're billing Medicare and then as soon as the heat comes, they close and open up a new shop and no one ever catches them.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, President Obama is now making fun of the GOP debate saying the Republicans can't handle a bunch of CNBC moderators at the debate news making preferences, how do you expect to stand up to Putin. OK, your response to President Obama?

RUBIO: Well, I don't -- my only problem with the CNBC debate was I thought they wasted an opportunity to ask questions about the economy. That was my issue. I don't care about the other stuff. I anticipate we are going to get asked tough questions. And because I'm a conservative --


VAN SUSTEREN: Are they tougher -- you know, irrelevant questions, some of them?

RUBIO: But my point was, the only complaint I had was we had a debate on CNBC, where we had an opportunity to go in depth on taxes, debt, trade, all the global issues that are going on in the economy and they were barely touched. And I just thought it was a missed opportunity.

I know most of the candidates had prepared for an in-depth economic discussion and instead we got things that had nothing to do with the economy or the future of the country. I think that was the disappointment from my perspective. I don't have any other complaints.

Debates are supposed to be tough. They are supposed to be difficult. And I anticipate that as a conservative, they are going to be even more difficult because there is bias in the mainstream media.

VAN SUSTEREN: I guess, for me, as a voter and a viewer is that one of the first questions, what is your weakness, was the question. You know, it would be different to me if it had been what's your business weakness? You know what I mean? And I thought maybe you are right, missed opportunity.

RUBIO: But I thought my complaint was --

VAN SUSTEREN: I don't consider that tough. I consider that as like, you know, we have too much time on our hands.

RUBIO: These guys are allowed to ask whatever they want. It's a free country and certainly in our republic, we have vibrant debates about a lot of things.

My only complaint that I have after the debate was -- the morning after the debate was -- we didn't get into deep economic issues, which is what I think most people tuning in on a CNBC debate were looking forward to.

Why are the two big Florida Republicans, Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Jeb Bush being beaten in the latest poll by Donald Trump in Florida.


RUBIO: Yes, I mean, it's unusual political year. People are really angry. You touched upon it earlier. And I think to his credit, Donald has touched upon some of that frustration that exists. I don't believe that will be the numbers by the time we get to march.

Primarily because the race is going to narrow and when it does, it's clear that people like myself do much better than in a broader race. But in the reality of it is there is a tremendous amount of frustration about the direction of our country. People are saying we got a majority in the Senate and nothing has changed. We're angry. And that's being manifested in these polls.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why does that happen? Why does that happen?

RUBIO: Why did what happen? Sorry.

VAN SUSTEREN: I mean, why do you have a majority in the Senate and the House, I mean, like, why is that --

RUBIO: I think there's a lack of urgency. I have argued that one of the things we need from our next president is a sense of urgency about the issues that we face. We don't have 10 years to fix the debt. We don't have 10 years to deal with our national security.

VAN SUSTEREN: Which brings it back to this report -- I mean this from the inspector general. Do you know that when the inspector general wanted to know why they spent $43 million on $500,000 gas station, the Pentagon didn't know. I mean, the Pentagon didn't even know.


RUBIO: And so, it's not just that. I mean, you limit it to that, but you look at our contracting practices and defense which I'm a big proponent that we actually need to fully fund our defense department, but when you throw away money on top of that, you are wasting money you already have.

Look, there has to be systemic reforms in the way that the country, for example, contracts out for defense programs, or the way it spends money overseas and programs such as this. There is no doubt about it. But that has to be fixed at the executive level. They have to be accountable to somebody, ultimately. And if it's a Defense Department spending, they have to be accountable to the secretary of defense in terms of how that money is being spent. And if it happened under someone's watch, they need to be removed from their post.

VAN SUSTEREN: Immigration reform, where do we -- where are you from that? You had the sort of the unsuccessful run at immigration reform. So where are you now?

RUBIO: Well, a lot has changed in 2013. Primarily, a migratory crisis on the southern border, unlawful executive order that legalized 5 million adults in this country. The result is -- the only way to move forward on immigration reform now begins by proving to the American people that we are making significant, serious progress on limiting illegal immigration. And until you do that, you're not going to be able to do anything else on immigration.


VAN SUSTEREN: For the undocumented here, a path to citizenship.

RUBIO: Once you brought illegal immigration under control, the second step has to be to modernize the legal immigration system so it's merit- based. And then the third step, I think, Americans will support a very reasonable approach to someone who has been in this country for 15 years illegally, but is not otherwise a criminal.

They'll have to pass a background check, obviously. Learn English, start paying taxes, pay a fine and they get a work permit. And that's all they are going to have for 10 years. After those 10 years are expired, I personally am open to allowing them to apply for a green card, assuming they have lived up to the conditions of that temporary status. Other people just want to leave it with a work permit. And that's probably the majority position in our party right now.

VAN SUSTEREN: Where are you on climate change? Senator Lindsey Graham who is also competing in 2016 he says that he is not a scientist as he has grades to prove it, which drew a laugh at the first debate the other night, but he says that climate change is real.

RUBIO: Yes, but the climate has always changed. There's never been a time when the climate has not changed.

VAN SUSTEREN: So do you see that as a national security issue, as a real issue.

RUBIO: I see that as this, and that is as a policy maker, we are being told climate is changing because of man-made activity, these are the laws we want you to pass. So I look at those laws they want us to pass and I asked them, well, how many inches of sea rise will that law prevent? Their answer is well, it won't prevent any, but we'll set an example for the world.

But then I look at the economic impact of that law and it's significant on real people making America uncompetitive for business and jobs. And I say so let me get this straight, you want me to support a law that does nothing to help the environment, but will have significant negative impact on our economy, that's a terrible trade off.

VAN SUSTEREN: Would you -- do you have sort of -- do you also have a longer view that in the event that -- I mean, a longer view of climate change and maybe do something differently.

RUBIO: Yes, but ask China or India to do something about it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, they want. They say that we have destroyed the environment for decades.


RUBIO: Well, they are wrong. We are cleaner than they are. American has been --


VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, now we are, but they say that for years, you know, we have been ahead of them in manufacturing all sorts of things and that we have dirtied up the environment.

RUBIO: Well, America as I said in the second debate, America is not a planet. They want us to pass these laws that will hurt our economy. Of course China wants to hurt our economy. They want to be the global super power. I'm not supporting policies that are going to hurt our economy and have no impact, zero on the climate, particularly as China, India and other developing or developed countries continue to ramp up carbon productions.


VAN SUSTEREN: What would you support?

RUBIO: Well, I think the American innovator. If people are interested in saying, look, we need less carbon emissions. We need to become more efficient in our use of energy, I'm in support of that. Let's lead the world in energy efficiency, but let's lead it through technological advances.

I support leading the world in solar and wind and biofuels and in renewables, but I think we would be reckless and irresponsible not to fully utilize our natural gas, which is a clean fuel and our oil, too. Especially allowing Americans to export it.

These are realities that we are going to have to do if we want to grow our economy significantly. And I believe the American innovator will continue without government interference to do what it's doing now, which is to make us more energy efficient and cleaner.

VAN SUSTEREN: Could you work with Democrats.

RUBIO: I have. In the past, for example, many --

VAN SUSTEREN: As president?

RUBIO: Well, look, many of my higher education reforms are bipartisan, whether it's right to know before you go. Where students are going to be told how much they are going to make when they graduate from that school with that degree before they borrow money, whether the alternative of crediting process that I've created for -- or trying to create for non-traditional students.

Whether it's income-based repayment for people that now owe thousands of dollars in student loans and can't pay them back. These are all bipartisan ideas. Whether it was the Girls Count Act that I passed earlier this year. I have no problem working with people on the other side of the aisle.

What I'm not going to do is compromise my principles. And there are issues, where we fundamentally disagree with the democrats on the role of government and society and in our country. And on those issues, we're going to have to have an election.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know it seems, you know, there is a difference between fundamental disagreement and fight. And it seems like right now that everyone is in sort of a fight mode. I don't mean you or anything else. But I mean, you know, it's like -- everyone, it's more like, instead of finding solutions people take sides.

RUBIO: Well, but there are some issues worth fighting for because there is an ideological difference. The democrats --

VAN SUSTEREN: But you can still have a good, strong, vigorous debate. I think, I mean, like, look -- I'm sure you get the same emails I get about every single topic. Because some people, you know -- people are, it seems like in this nation -- a lot of people who are less interested in looking for solutions and figuring out how to work over our differences than just having a mud fest.


RUBIO: But some of these issues, for example, the Dems -- we can agree that there is a problem in America where too many of our jobs don't pay enough. The problem is the Democrats think the solution is some new tax and some new government program. I believe it's allowing free enterprise to work. That's a fundamental disagreement.

We're going to have to argue about that. We don't have to be rude. We don't have to be nasty. We don't have to be disrespectful. But we are going to have to have a debate about that and ultimately an election. Because the Democratic Party has become a left-wing party taken over by radicals in that party that want to expand the role of government and make us like Sweden or Norway, or whatever it is, Bernie Sanders said. I want us to be America. And I want us to be greater and more free enterprise than we've ever had before.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, enjoy the debate next week and enjoy my home state of Wisconsin.

RUBIO: I will.

VAN SUSTEREN: Enjoy Milwaukee. Anyway, thank you, senator.

RUBIO: Thank you.