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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript


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Senator Rubio is joining us now from Boca Raton.

Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: I'm sure by now you saw that really sharp attack on you in Sunday's "New York Times" by the columnist Frank Rooney, who wrote, among other things, he said, you present rosy assumptions and slippery generalizations. You're -- quote -- "maddeningly evasive. Politicians sell us low-tax, no-pain fantasies. They traffic in vagueness, treat us like toddlers. Rubio certainly did."

He was talking about a briefing you gave some journalists in New York about how Romney would pay for the across-the-board tax cuts that he is proposing.

I wonder if you -- A., if you read the article and you want to respond to that columnist.

RUBIO: I'm actually a subscriber, but I have must have missed that one.

Not surprising that I would have some negative write-up in "The New York Times."

But, look, the bottom line is there's some folks that believe that the economy's a limited thing and the job of government is to go and divide it up among us by raising taxes on some and not raising it on others. I just don't believe that. And I think many of us in the limited government movement don't believe that.

We think the economy can always grow bigger. We believe that everyone can be better off, that you don't have to leave anybody else worse off in order to help other people be better off. And I think history proves that possible, especially in America's dynamic 20th century of economic growth.

I think we can exceed that in the 21st century. Now, we are going to have some difficult and important decisions to make, politically difficult decisions to make on things like Medicare. But the sooner we do those things, the better off we are all going to be, the less disruptive they're going to be. And I have been campaigning on that in Florida since I ran for the Senate in 2010.


BLITZER: I want to get to Medicare, but what specific deductions do you think the people in Florida should be anticipating if Mitt Romney's elected and he has this 20 percent across-the-board budget cut? Their home mortgage deductions? Their charitable deductions? Their child care deductions? Which deductions do you want to see go away?

RUBIO: Look, there's all kinds of deductions. Look, I can identify a bunch of deductions right now that you would look at and say, well, they don't make a lot of sense. And we should have a debate about those.

BLITZER: Tell us which ones.


RUBIO: Well, for example, a yacht. You can have a yacht as a second home and take that as a second home deduction. There's all kinds of things.

Members of Congress get a deduction for their living expenses up to a certain amount in Washington, D.C. We can go through all of them. That's not the point.

The point is what Governor Romney has outlined here is a plan. And his plan is this. He's going to lower corporate and personal rates and he's going to make up the difference by reexamining the tax code and getting rid of exemptions that do no longer make sense.

There has to be a process to do that. And that's what he is saying. He's going to work with Congress to identify which are the ones that don't make sense. That's how you get things done in a bipartisan way. That's why he was successful in Massachusetts. The opposite approach is to come in...


BLITZER: Excuse me for interrupting. The criticism that he's getting and you got in that column in "The New York Times" is you're telling the voters, just wait. We will tell you -- we will give you the bad news later...


BLITZER: ... which deductions we're eliminating. Right now, we're only going to give you the good news. There's going to be a 20 percent tax cut.

RUBIO: But there isn't going to be any bad news. That's my point.

My point is that if you are going to lower people's rates, if you're going to lower their rates, that's going to replace the -- the exemptions that are going to be -- that are going to be taken out. That's the whole point of tax reform. The whole point of tax reform is not to raise people's taxes. It's to simplify the tax code. But what some are asking for is which specific exemptions are you going to take out. And my answer is, you know, I can identify some I think don't make a lot of sense, but you're going to have to do that through a process working with the entire Congress. You're going to have to get that passed out of both chambers.

And I don't think the right approach for Mitt Romney is to go in saying, "These are the specific deductions, one through 80, and either you do it my way or no way at all." That's just not the way you get things done.

BLITZER: And you think the eliminations...

RUBIO: You give an outline of what to do.

BLITZER: You think the elimination of the deductions, the loopholes, the tax credits, whatever, that's going to add up to the $5 trillion or whatever the reduction in tax revenues would be that Mitt Romney's proposing?

RUBIO: Yes. Yes, that's exactly his point. His point is that those deductions are going to match up, that he's not going to add to the deficit by going through tax reform. And I think that's possible.

And when you add into that, when you add into that, by the way, the growth element of it, because we believe, as I think history bears out, as John F. Kennedy believed, that if you lower tax rates you incentivize economic activity that grows the economy, which generates more revenue for government.

Look at the last decade. People criticized the left, especially the Bush tax cuts, but during the last decade, we had historic increases in revenue for government, despite the Bush tax cuts. Unfortunately, we also had historic increases in spending that offset the increases in revenue. Economic growth creates revenue for government.

BLITZER: The other big issue in Florida right now -- and you know this more than anyone, since you're a politician from Florida, there's a lot of concern among Florida's seniors that -- that Romney is going to go ahead and create this voucher system for Medicare. You say Medicare is the best system right now. So here's the question. Why tinker with something that's working?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, Medicare is working for people that are current beneficiaries, and it's not going to change for current beneficiaries. And I always use the example of my mother, who's a beneficiary of Medicare. I will never support anything that undermines that program for her.

But I understand that people in my generation, 20, 30 years away from retirement, if we continue doing what we're doing now, there isn't going to be a Medicare for us. And so my generation is going to have to accept that our Medicare may very well be very different than the one our parents had. It will be the best thing in the world. It will still function very well, but it will be different.

For example, wealthier seniors are going to have to pay a little bit more for their Medicare in the future. The way the program is delivered, we may have choices, we may be able to have a premium support every month where we can go out and shop for Medicare plan of our own, like we do now for some seniors in Medicare Advantage.

And I think the sooner we start making those changes, again, for future beneficiaries, the less disruptive those changes are going to be, and the less of a need there's going to be -- the elimination of the need there's going to be to do anything to current beneficiaries right now. There's not going to be any changes for them.

BLITZER: All right. Senator, unfortunately, we've got to leave it right there. Senator Rubio down in Boca Raton. Beautiful Boca Raton, Florida. Getting ready for the big debate tonight. Appreciate it.


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