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Public Statements

NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript

Interview

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BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

DAVID GREGORY:
I want to start with what's on top of the news here.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Yeah.

DAVID GREGORY:
The Arizona immigration law. As you know, critics say this is tantamount to racial profiling. Law enforcement has the ability to pull somebody if over. If they think they're an illegal immigrant, they can demand their papers.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Yeah.

DAVID GREGORY:
If the Supreme Court upholds that law, does that make you uncomfortable?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well and actually, I'm glad you're asking me about that, because I grappled with this issue during my campaign, and I talked about it in the book that you just showed on the screen there. When it was first introduced, it made me very uncomfortable. But then I learned more about what was happening.

First of all, they made a flight change to it that specifically prohibited that sort of activity that you've outlined as a concern. And then I understood a little better about what Arizona faces and the unique aspects of Arizona as compared to, example, Florida. I mean Arizona has an all-out border problem there that's not just about immigration, it's about security. And it's legislature, frustrated with inaction from the federal level, reacted with this law.

What I've said repeatedly is I believe Arizona has a right to pass that bill. I understand why they did it. But I don't think it's a national model, and I don't think other states should follow suit. For example, I don't want to see a law like that in Florida.

But it's important to remind ourselves that what the Supreme Court analyzes is the constitutionality of the law. And I do believe that Arizona has a constitutional right to do this. But I think, ultimately, the blame for those kinds of laws falls on the shoulders of federal officials and the federal government for not doing its proper role in enforcing immigration law.

DAVID GREGORY:
Well, here's the big issue. You know? And I know you grapple with this. You do in the book, as well. We have up to 12 million illegal immigrants in the country. What are we going to do with those immigrants if we want to crack down on illegal immigration? In your view of the world, can any illegal immigrant become legal in the United States without first going home?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well again, that's the complexity of this issue. And as I outlined in the book, and I've talked about repeatedly in recent days, immigration is not a black or white issue. It's not a yes or a no issue. It is complicated because it has a deep human element. These are human beings who find themselves here undocumented. But, for the vast majority of them, they're here in search of a better life and opportunities for their children.

On the other hand, the United States can't be the only country in the world that doesn't enforce its immigration laws. In fact, the United States today is the most generous country in the world on immigration. A million people a year come here legally. There's no other country in the world that comes close to that. So your question goes to what do we do with the folks that are here now?

DAVID GREGORY:
All right. So what's the answer?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well, the answer is threefold. Number one is we've got to win the confidence of the American people. It's a sequential approach. You can't just say, "We're going to deal with the 12 million people right up front." First, you've got to win the confidence of the American people that the federal government is serious about enforcing our immigration laws. And that's why I think border security and e-verify are so important.

DAVID GREGORY:
Well, deportations are up under President Obama. You said he's dropped the ball.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
But it's not about just deportation, it's about enforcing the law. For example, an electronic verification system where employers have the security of knowing that the people they hire are legally here, protects the American worker. And by the way, is good for the immigrant, so they're not being exploited.
All to the border security element, which has improved. It has improved. But it needs to continue to improve. Then I think we need to modernize. The second step is to modernize our legal immigration system. One of the things we don't talk about enough is that, in my opinion, the single greatest contributor to illegal immigration is a broken legal immigration system. I think if you do those two things, then the plight of 12 million, or nine million, or whatever the number is, becomes easier to deal with.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
But it won't become easy, it'll never be easy.

DAVID GREGORY:
Right.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
But it'll become easier if you have the confidence of the American people.

DAVID GREGORY:
But you get into these issues, as any legislator does, and it's the final step that's the hardest. Who can become legal? What is amnesty? And that's why this question is so crucial. Can anyone become legal who's here illegally, without first going home?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well, we've talked about, for example, in the case of the kids. And I began to work on an idea a few months ago that hopefully one day will be reality. And that is what do you do, how do you accommodate kids that came here at a very young age, through no fault of their own, have grown up in this country, graduate high school, want to go to college and be a part of our future, and find themselves here undocumented, through no fault of their own? And we began to create an approach, and we'll continue to work on an approach.

DAVID GREGORY:
This is what's known as The Dream Act.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well, The Dream Act I don't support.

DAVID GREGORY:
Yeah.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
The Dream Act is a different piece of legislation.

DAVID GREGORY:
But it was an older version of that legislation.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
An alternative to it.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Which I've discussed since my campaign.

DAVID GREGORY:
Right.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
We need to accommodate these kids. But ultimately, again, here's where the balance comes into play, yes, we need to be compassionate towards nine or 12, whatever the number is, of people. These are human beings. And they are here because they're looking for a better life.

But we also can't do anything that encourages illegal immigration in the future. And here's the other point that I think no one ever talks about. What about all these people, including many Latino, Hispanic, you know, from Latin America, who are waiting to come here legally, who have done all the paperwork?

DAVID GREGORY:
Senator, I understand this.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
What do we say to them?

DAVID GREGORY:
But I--

DAVID GREGORY:
I'm not able to get a definitive answer from you, which is can anyone become legal without first going home? This is going to be the brass tacks question here--

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
But, when--

DAVID GREGORY:
--when you get to immigration reform.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Yeah. But again, the answer to that question depends on the environment in which it's being answered. And in this current environment, in this current environment, the options that we have available today to deal with 12 million people, is very limited. Because people are frustrated that our immigration laws are not being enforced, and we don't have a functional legal immigration system that people--

DAVID GREGORY:
Right.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
--can avail themselves of, even if they did go back home.

DAVID GREGORY:
The latest thing that's happened is that the president took action unilaterally.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Yeah.

DAVID GREGORY:
His Secretary of Homeland Security gave guidance to her local agency saying, "There should be work waivers," not necessarily a path to citizenship, but waivers where children of illegal immigrants. The president speaking this week at a National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials said this.

DAVID GREGORY:
And isn't the president right to this extent? You're not even comfortable saying what you would do about a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who are here, even the children of illegal immigrants, because this is such a tough issue in the Republican Party over what is, quote unquote, "amnesty."

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well again, that's not an accurate assessment. Because the first thing I'll tell you is I have talked in specific about an approach for these kids. The Dream Act is too broad. I said that repeatedly during my campaign. It doesn't just help the kids, it ultimately, in a very short order, could lead to these kids bringing in multiple relatives. It could lead to millions of other people immigrating through this process.

It goes back to the balance that I talk about. We need to be compassionate. But we also can't do something that encourages illegal immigration in the future. And I think The Dream Act, as they have written it, would do that.

DAVID GREGORY:
But what the president did, you didn't like the way he did it. You wanted legislation. But substantively, you agree--

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well--

DAVID GREGORY:
--with what the point did.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
No, even substantively, it's a short term fix for a long term problem. And in fact, what it does is it injects election year politics into an issue that will never be solved as long as it's a political one. I am convinced, after a year and a half here in-- in Washington and in the Senate, that for some people, I would say many or all, but for many, or I would just say too many people, this issue is more valuable unresolved. For them, they'd rather have the immigration--

DAVID GREGORY:
But you didn't support a Dream Act Bill. You had a chance to put forward the bill, you didn't advance the legislation. Why not force Democrats to vote on this?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Because they're stoppable (?).

DAVID GREGORY:
You're a leading voice on immigration.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well first of all, we have developed the idea in enough detail that people knew what was in, and that were able to-- when I first announced the idea, immediately, Democrats on the left criticized me. The same people who are now applauding the president for doing something similar. And that exposes the hypocrisy behind it.

The second point is that legislation like this, if you are a responsible policymaker, you don't just rush out a piece of legislation that impacts the lives of potentially 800,000 people that deeply affects the immigration laws of this country. You have to be careful. You have to answers to every question.

If I rush out a piece of legislation that's not ready, if I don't have every answer to every question that's gonna be raised about that bill, it loses credibility from the onset. So I will continue to approach it as a responsive policymaker. Look, if I wanted a talking point, if what I wanted was something to use in November elections, we would have cobbled something together and rolled it out.

DAVID GREGORY:
But here's the reality. You support a candidate, Mitt Romney, who talked about self deportation during the campaign. Had to run hard to the right here on illegal immigration. Had said, at one point, that he would veto The Dream Act. And the reality is that he's far behind President Obama among Latino voters.
You write this in your book, An American Son, about Canada: "I begin to wonder if some of the people who speak so disparagingly about immigrants would be just as worked up if most of them were coming from Canada." You suggest a level of racism here toward illegal immigrants. How much of a problem does the Republican Party have on this issue?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well first of all, (UNINTEL) that all these voices are Republicans, the enormous, vast and overwhelming majority of Republicans are supporters of legal immigration, are compassionate to the plight of illegal immigrants, but understand that America cannot be the only country in the world that doesn't enforce its immigration laws.

And by the way, again, I repeat, what about the 30, 40, 50 million people that are waiting to immigrate to the U.S., who's relatives come to my offices, for example, some of them, asking for help to expedite that process? What do I tell them? "Come illegally, it's cheaper and quicker?"

So I think that-- no one talks about them. Again, it's not a simple issue. And The Dream Act is too broad. There is an alternative that's better. It's what we were working on, is what I had hoped to work on outside of politics, to be able to elevate the issue beyond the give and take of electoral politics. Obviously, that's not going to happen, unfortunately, this year, because now the issue has been politicized by the president.

DAVID GREGORY:
Romney's got a big disadvantage.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well--

DAVID GREGORY:
You would agree with that, among Latino voters?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well again, I think we need to remember that there are some historic factors in play. I mean there are also a large number of Hispanic voters in this country who happen to be liberal Democrats, who happen to be lifelong Democrats. They're not going to change the position and decide to vote for Mitt Romney now because he will change his position on immigration or not. So we need to realize that this is a long term effort for the Republican Party to insure that our message of limited government and free enterprise is accessible to a group of Americans that happen to be of Hispanic descent.

DAVID GREGORY:
I brought up the Supreme Court. The other big decision, of course, is health care. Several different scenarios there. How important is this going to be, do you think, ultimately in the race, if they strike it down or if they uphold it or if they strike down part of it? Where do we go from here?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well, irrespective of what happens with the Supreme Court decision, which again, is going to decide on the basis of the constitution, what the Supreme Court is deciding is whether the law is constitutional, not whether it's a good idea or not. I think the debate about how to approach our health insurance problem in America will continue.

Because the health care laws, currently structured, is discouraging job creation and expansion of business in America. And so that issue will continue to be faced as the law is upheld. And if the law is overturned, Republicans, hopefully we have the majority, and President Romney, are going to have to come up with an alternative, a way to replace what Obama Care does.

DAVID GREGORY:
Would you like to see insurance guaranteed for people with preexisting conditions?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well, I think I talked about the way to handle that, for example, people that are difficult to insure, is through high risk pools. There are ways to do that. But I really would like to see for America is a vibrant, private insurance market where individuals can buy insurance from any company that will sell it to them, with the same tax treatment as their employers get, where companies can pool together with other companies to buy this insurance, where the consumer is in charge of health insurance, not just the employer structure that we have in place today.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me ask you a question about the economy and the fiscal cliff that's coming here in Washington, which are some big decisions about whether we're going to balance the budget. Would you use any money from closing tax loopholes, any new revenue that would come into the government, would you use any of that to pay down the debt?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
But no one is in dispute that we need more revenue. The question is how do you generate it. And that's the fault of the--

DAVID GREGORY:
Well, but my question is would you use any of it to pay down the debt?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well, I would use revenue from growth. Which I think, when you talk about--

DAVID GREGORY:
Well, that wasn't my question.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
No.

DAVID GREGORY:
Any closing loopholes, because you know what I'm getting at, which is this idea of the tax pledged. Do you consider this, raising taxes, if you close a loophole, you get new revenue to the government, you use part of it to pay down debt, maybe the majority of it, to bring down tax rates?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
I know, but I reject the premise of that. I think that's a false choice. I think the issue--

DAVID GREGORY:
Other Republicans in the Senate don't think it's a false choice.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well, I think it's a false choice.

DAVID GREGORY:
Do they? Okay.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
And here's why. Because I think the issue here is growth. And that's a good thing, by the way, that I think both parties are now debating about. I think we know what the selection is partially about, and that is both parties agree that what we need is growth in America. It is the single biggest way, it's the best way, to solve our debt problems, our unemployment problems.

Now the debate is about how we generate growth. And the reason why I oppose tax increases is because I think they hurt growth. I think it's destructive to growth. But I think if we do tax reform, which would involve flattening the tax code, getting rid of certain exemptions that are in place today, you can do that in a revenue-neutral way in the first year.

But that would generate growth. And growth would generate revenue. And then you how to have the fiscal discipline to use that revenue to pay down the debt. So I think that growth is the only way to solve this problem. And I think tax increases would hurt growth. That's why I object to tax increases.

DAVID GREGORY:
I want to ask you about your political standing. And here's a surprise. I'm not going to ask you if you're going to be Mitt Romney's running mate. I'm not going to ask you that question. What I'm going to do instead is simply play this piece of tape from your last appearance here in may.

DAVID GREGORY:
Senator, do you stand by that answer?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
I thought you had told me you'd burned the tapes? (LAUGHTER) Look, I'm not discuss--

DAVID GREGORY:
Do you stand by that?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
I'm not discussing the vice presidential process anymore.

DAVID GREGORY:
Right.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
I made the decision two months ago not to discuss it any further. I think, by the way, other people that have been speculated about are doing the exact same thing, and wisely so. I think Governor Romney--

DAVID GREGORY:
But I'm not asking you to discuss, I'm just asking you, do you stand by that statement?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
I'm not discussing the vice presidential process.

DAVID GREGORY:
You're not going to say whether that's still operable or not?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
I just-- look, here's what I can tell you.

DAVID GREGORY:
You said, under no circumstances, and yet, you're obviously providing material to be vetted. So if it was under no circumstances, why allow yourself to be vetted?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

Well, here's--

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
No, here's what I can tell you definitively. And that is that I am confident, based on his lifelong record of making good decisions, that Mitt Romney's going to make a great selection for vice president.

DAVID GREGORY:
Let me ask you a couple of other things. Here's the headline in AP about some of the issues you write about in your book, some mistakes you say you made. "As Senator Rubio raises his profile, will issues from his past hold back this GOP rising star?" There's been talk about use of a party credit card. Your friendship with David Rivera (PH), who's a Congressman-- from Florida, who's still being investigated, was investigated, by the state. Is there anything there from your past you think is a liability politically?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
You know, I think your opponents want to turn anything into a liability. This show, as we speak, there are bloggers standing by their computers, and fact checkers and others, that want to use any word I say against us or in the future. And that's one of the things I discuss in the book is how everything you do in politics, even if you may think it doesn't look bad, will be put together and packaged in the worst possible way in the future, and be viewed through a lens very different from the one at the time that you're doing it.

So what I talk about in the book is I have made decisions in the past that, if I had a chance to do differently, I would. You raised the credit card issue. You know, at the end of the day, I have a good explanation for all of that. But that doesn't mean that's the way it's going to be covered, and that's not the way it's going to be portrayed. And then there's a lesson there that, in politics, especially the higher you go, perception is often reality, and you have to be sensitive to that when you're involved in politics.

DAVID GREGORY:
You hired people to kind of go through your record to make sure there's nothing embarrassing. Are you confident at this point that there's nothing that will emerge about your past in politics or personally that would be either embarrassing to you politically or, if you were to be on a ticket with Mitt Romney, that would cause a problem?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Yeah, look. Again, on all that stuff, I wrote a book that I thought was a very honest appraisal of where I am and where I've been and the decisions that I've made. And the reason why I did it is pretty simple. There are other people out there that are my age, in their 30s at the time I was making these decisions, maybe they're in politics, maybe they're in business, and maybe there are lessons to be learned from that.

I've made good decisions. Like everybody else, I've made bad decisions. I've learned from my bad decisions. I have always learned, like all of us do, from our mistakes. I wouldn't over-blow them, either. But I think it's important to point those out.

DAVID GREGORY:
It's interesting. What a lot of people may not have realize, that you were a Mormon when you were younger, and your family was Mormon. And you've written about it, and others have, that you sort of instigated the change to get out of the Mormon Church and become Catholic. What brought that on? Why did you move away from the Mormon Church?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

Well, a couple things. I think it's important to point out I was eight years old, I mean at the time that our family went into the church. And as I talked about in the book, my mom, we moved to Las Vegas, and she was looking for a wholesome environment to raise our family. It was one of the things that, I know when people think of wholesome environment for the family, Las Vegas doesn't come to mind. But it was (CHUCKLE) a much smaller town back then, and outside of the strip, obviously.

And we have family members, still do, that were very involved in the LDS Church. And my mom was a big admirer of the family-friendly environment it created. And as I discuss in the book, that's why she moved us there. You know, but for spiritual reasons, when I was about 12 years old, I started feeling called back to the Catholic Church. And it was nothing against the Mormon Church, it was just this calling that's happened twice in my life. And one of the aspects that I explore in the book is my faith journey. And I hope people enjoy reading about that, as well.

DAVID GREGORY:
You know, there's so many similarities between you and President Obama in terms of your political rise.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Hopefully in book sales, too. (LAUGHTER)

DAVID GREGORY:
Yeah, you've written a book, like he did. Your ascent, as rapid as it is, has to be remarkable. And I'm sure you've looked to President Obama. I realize you're different ideologically. But what do you learn kind of positively and negatively from his very fast rise and your own, as you go through it?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well, and I've discussed this in other interviews and a little bit in the book. Obviously, I think like all Americans, his candidacy of 2008 was an historic one. I deeply disagreed with him on policy. But I understood the historic nature of his candidacy. And I understood politically how well organized they ran that campaign.

I mean just in terms of being a practitioner of politics, you watch the way they conducted that campaign with admiration, even though there were very strong disagreements about the policy positions that he took and has taken. I can tell you that when I was thinking about running for the Senate, I studied his Senate run when he was in third place. I mean he was not supposed to be the nominee for his party in Illinois. And I felt if someone like that can run and win in Illinois, then someone like me can win in Florida.

But look, I think the one thing about the president that, to me, is personally disappointing, and I obviously don't know the president very well, is I thought in 2008, irrespective of where he stood on issues, he had a very unique opportunity to elevate American politics above kind of the normal fray where it had been before. I think he's abandoned that. I think he now become just like everybody else in this town, where politics is about-- divide and conquer as opposed to hope and change.

DAVID GREGORY:
Are you ambitious enough to believe that you can become the first Latino president?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
You know, I don't ever, and what I've really done, I hope the book captures this, is I've deliberately not tried to ever view any position I have as a springboard for another position. I think it's a recipe for self destruction. What I do believe is if I do a good job in the Senate, if I'm a serious policymaker, if I take my time to put forward bills as opposed to, you know, bumper sticker solutions, like I've tried to do with this immigration issue, then I think, six years from now, I'll have a lot of opportunities to do different things in politics, outside of politics. My experience has been that, if you do a good job at your job, you'll have other opportunities, including some you've never expected.

DAVID GREGORY:
I tried to save the toughest for last. You know, we have our own vetting process here as we try to get to know you better and help the American people get to know you better. And rooting through, going through your book and understanding your interest in music, in rap and hip hop, (CHUCKLE) the critical question is: east coast or west coast? (LAUGHTER) Biggie Smalls or Tupac, which is it?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Yeah, was more of a west coast fan, I guess, during that time. You know, that distinction has gone away now.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
--Miami-based--

DAVID GREGORY:
Well, we're the same age. So that's right, we have--

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:

But I was more of a west coast guy. And that probably hurt me on the east coast. (LAUGHTER)

DAVID GREGORY:
All right, one last question. I'm thinking about basketball.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Yeah.

DAVID GREGORY:
And I'm wondering, in Florida today, who would get more votes, Obama, Romney or Lebron James?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Well, in Miami, probably Lebron James. (LAUGHTER) Like everywhere else in America, unfortunately, there's still a lot of hate going on for Lebron and The Heat. But tough pill to swallow for them.

DAVID GREGORY:
Right. You can't be for--

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
For The Heat.

DAVID GREGORY:
You can't be for them in Florida and (LAUGHTER) still deal with Ohio. That's the problem.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Yeah. That's exactly right. (LAUGHTER) Yeah.

DAVID GREGORY:
Senator Rubio, thanks very much.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO:
Thank you.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT


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