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Mr. RUBIO. I thank my colleague for the opportunity. Let me begin by--I have been here a while. Let me give my colleague some free advice: Keep some water nearby. It is handy. Trust me.
Anyway, I thank the Senator for entertaining my question. Let me just begin by saying my question is about the motivation for being here on the floor today. What brought me here is I have been reading some of the accounts of what is going on and people are talking about the involvement of the Senator from Kentucky in a filibuster and some are already characterizing it as another Republican filibuster of one of the President's nominees. Just to be clear because, as I understand, the only thing I have heard the Senator from Kentucky say leading up to now about the primary issue in coming to the floor today is that the Senator from Kentucky asked a very straightforward question on an issue of constitutional importance. Yet he has not received a straightforward answer. Not only has the Senator from Kentucky not received an answer, but we saw testimony earlier this morning that, quite frankly--I watched the video two or three times and I personally do not understand why it was so difficult to basically just say yes or no.
So I wish to start out by asking, just to be clear, the motivation to be on the floor today is not to deny the President a vote on one of his nominees but the motivation is that the Senator from Kentucky has asked this administration a very important and relevant question and has been unable to receive a straightforward answer to that question?
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Mr. RUBIO. Without yielding the floor, the followup question I have--because I think this is actually a very useful exercise for the folks who have been snowed in today and there is nothing better to watch than C-SPAN and for the people who are able to be here today to actually understand the structure of our government and how it was designed, because it is my personal opinion we have gotten away from some of that.
Let me describe for a second my position that leads up to the question I am going to ask. I am actually a member of the Intelligence Committee, which means we reviewed this nomination. I have questions that I care about that were somewhat different than the valid ones the Senator from Kentucky is raising. As a member of that committee, I asked those questions and I am going to seek answers to those questions.
We have a job to do. I think that is important for people to understand. Members of the Senate have an important constitutional role to give advice and consent on these nominations. We have an obligation not just to pass these folks through but to actually ask serious questions to determine if they are qualified for the position they are going to hold. We want our Senators to be doing that in both parties, no matter who the President may be.
So I undertook that effort as far as the Intelligence Committee. I asked my questions. I got answers to my questions. I believe the nominee is qualified and I believe the President has a right to his nominees, even if they are not the people we would nominate. I believe ultimately these nominees deserve a vote. That is why I voted yesterday to move this nomination on.
Just as the President has a right to his nominations and ultimately to have a vote on those nominations, so, too, do Members of the Senate have a right to their role and, in particular, to ask relevant questions on issues of important public policy and get answers from the administration. This is not--I think sometimes this is being lost. We have different branches of government, but they are coequal branches of government. The Presidency, the executive branch, is it important? Absolutely, it is important. It is the Commander in Chief. It is the top single office in the Nation. But the legislative branch is a coequal branch with a job just as important. In order to do that job, we have to have access to information, the ability to ask relevant questions, and to get straight answers. To be frank, sometimes I feel when we ask questions of this administration, they feel as though it is beneath them to answer questions from us, from time to time. I think that is very unfortunate.
My question is--when the Senator from Kentucky is here today raising these issues, it is my opinion--and I would like to hear what the Senator has to say--this is more than just an issue of the constitutionality of this particular program, it is a defense of this institution. It is a defense of the legislative branch. It is a defense of the Senate as an institution. Irrespective of how one feels about the nomination or the program or where the Senator falls on this constitutional issue, it is a defense of this institution, and it is a constitutional--not a constitutional right, a constitutional obligation to ask relevant questions of public policy and to get answers, to ask questions so the people back home will know the answers to these questions. If we are not going to ask these questions, who is going to ask them? The press? Maybe in a press conference, but that is not what they are paid to do; that is what we are paid to do. That is what we were elected to do.
So I would like to hear the Senator's views on that, because my belief and what I am picking up from everything Senator Paul is saying, the Senator is actually on the floor today standing for the obligation this institution has to ask questions such as this and to be able to get straight answers to these questions.
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Mr. RUBIO. This will probably be my last question. Before I get to it, let me say that all the other Senators--I know some of my colleagues have already come to the floor and some might be watching or some might be nearby. I would just say this, to think about this for a moment. One may or may not agree with the position of the Senator from Kentucky on this issue. Maybe a Senator saw the Attorney General's answer and saw his testimony this morning and that Senator is satisfied with it. Maybe another Senator is not that concerned about this issue at all. I don't think that is the issue. I think what we need to remember is that all of us have something we care deeply about or multiple things we care deeply about, and the day will come when something you care about or some issue you are involved in or some question you have, you will try to raise that question, and it may be under a different administration. I think we have to remember the President will not be President forever. There will be a new President in 3 1/2 years and after that and so forth and some folks may still be here. At some point in the future, all of us will have questions we want answered and we will have an administration or some other organization of government that refuses to give us straight answers. When that moment comes, you will want your colleagues to rally to your side, even if they don't agree with you, and defend your right as a representative of the people of your State to ask important questions, particularly questions of constitutional importance, and get straight answers to those questions.
It is my feeling--and the Senator may comment on this--if he had just gotten a straight answer to that letter, if he had just gotten a straight answer in the testimony today, this would not have been necessary. If they would have taken in the question, which I think is a pretty straightforward question, and answered it in a straightforward way, all of this could have been avoided and this nominee could have had a vote. But, instead, they decided to go in a different direction and it baffles me.
Here is a question I have. I think this is important also for the people watching back home. Often, they may say: Why do you have to do it this way? Why can't you just answer the question and not have to do this process of starting and stopping things from moving forward? My view is--and I want to share it with the Senator and get his impressions--twofold. No. 1, these are the tools that are at our disposal. That is why the system was created and designed this way. One of the things the Senate has at its disposal to preserve and protect its prerogative to ask important questions are the rules we have set up here. They don't protect just one Senator but every Senator here, even if I don't agree with others. One of the things that gives us the ability to ask and have questions answered is this role we have of confirming nominees.
Secondly, I would say this is not the Secretary of the Treasury, this is not some other unrelated Cabinet position, this is the Central Intelligence Agency, which is directly related to the program the Senator from Kentucky has relevant questions about. So I guess I wanted to hear from him a little bit more about why he chose this particular nomination and why and how it is relevant to the larger question he is asking.
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