Marco Rubio in 2010 Florida Senate debates

On Corporations: Businesses need certainty to commit to hiring new workers

Rubio blamed the Obama administration for creating an atmosphere of uncertainty in which companies can't commit to hiring new workers. Businesses "are afraid of what next year is going to mean in terms of taxes, regulation & health-care," Rubio said. He ruled out any compromise that doesn't extend all the Bush-era tax cuts enacted in 2001 & 2003, which lowered rates on wages & investments for all Americans, and which are due to expire on Dec. 31.

Obama favors extending the tax cuts only for households earning less than $250,000, about 98% of all taxpayers. Rubio argued that anything short of extending them for all Americans, poor and wealthy alike, would amount to a tax increase at a particularly vulnerable time. "There's a difference between compromise & cutting a deal," Rubio said. "Compromise is a good thing. Cutting deals in Washington, there's too much of that."

Meek defended Obama's economic strategy. Crist straddled the positions of his rivals, supporting a compromise on the tax cuts

Source: Business Week coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Oct 25, 2010

On Tax Reform: No one should pay higher taxes in recession, not even top 2%

The tax-cut issue, revolving around whether to extend Bush-era tax cuts scheduled to expire at the end of 2010, demonstrated the different stances of each candidate. Pres. Obama calls for extending the tax cuts to everyone making up to $200,000 a year, or $250,000 for families, which is 98% of the population. The rates on income above those figures would return to higher levels of the 1990s under the Obama plan.

Rubio insisted all the tax cuts should be extended, saying no one in America should pay higher taxes at a time of high unemployment and sluggish economic growth. "It's a bad time to raise taxes on anybody," Rubio said. "The only way to improve the economy is by growing the economy and fiscal constraint, and you have to do both."

Crist said that position showed Rubio's inability to break from rigid ideology. While Crist advocated a compromise, Meek backed the Obama position.

Source: CNN ElectionCenter coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Oct 24, 2010

On Tax Reform: Extend Bush tax cuts, even for high earners

There were obvious differences between Meek and Rubio. Meek supported the economic stimulus package and said it kept the country from going into a depression; Rubio said it was a failure. Meek said he would vote for the health care overhaul again and Rubio said it should be repealed. Meek wants to continue President George W. Bush's tax cuts for all except those who make more than $250,000, Rubio wants them extended for all earners.

"You think government creates jobs," Rubio said to Meek, cutting him off.

"No, I don't," Meek said.

"You do," Rubio said.

"I think tax cuts for small businesses create jobs and incentives for local communities to move forward," Meek said.

Crist added, "What you just witnessed is the problem and the reason I'm running as an independent. These two guys are going at each other because one's the Republican right, one's the Democratic left. What's true is there are good things that both parties can present to the future of our country."

Source: Associated Press coverage of 2010 Florida Senate Debate Oct 6, 2010

On Principles & Values: Fundraised via "Floridians for Conservative Leadership"

In 2004, he set up another committee of continuous existence called Floridians for Conservative Leadership in Government, and raised nearly $400,000. His financial management was questionable. The St. Petersburg Times found that $14,000 from the fund wen to Rubio's mother-in-law and two of his wife's cousins for "courier work." About one-fifth of the committee's expenses were never accounted for at all. Rubio says that's because the money went toward expenses under $500, which don't have to be detailed.
Source: Miami New Times coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Jul 22, 2010

On Principles & Values: Repaid Florida GOP for overspending on party credit card

Rubio spent like mad on an American Express credit card issued to the Florida Republican Party and paid for by donors. Between 2007 and 2009, he charged about $100,000 on the card--including almost $16,000 in personal expenses such as a $135 haircut and $1,000 in repairs to his family's minivan, according to a Herald investigation. (Rubio has repaid the party for some charges but refuses to assume other expenses he says were legitimate.)

A St. Petersburg Times investigation later found that Rubio had also double-billed the state and the GOP credit card for eight flights. After the report, he admitted the error and repaid the party $3,000.

Source: Miami New Times coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Jul 22, 2010

On Principles & Values: Home purchases funded by very GOP-friendly bank boards

In 2005, Rubio bought a new house for $550,000; he took out a $495,000 mortgage. The fishy part: A month after Rubio purchased the home, US Century Bank reappraised the house at $735,000 & then offered him a new $135,000 home equity loan that the speaker accepted. US Century's board of directors included a megadeveloper who allied with Rubio on a key vote against slot machines--as well as [several GOP operatives]. Essentially, a bank controlled by supporters printed Rubio $135K out of thin air.

Then, in 2007, Rubio finally found a cash buyer for his first house, who paid $380,000 up front--a $105K windfall over Rubio's 2003 purchase price. The buyer was the mother of the lobbyist who spent months lobbying Rubio for his critical support of an insuranc law. Rubio voted for the bill a few months afterwards.

Did the home sale buy his vote? Rubio says no. "My understanding was that [the buyer] had some life insurance proceeds that she was using to buy it, and she was willing to close on it quickly."

Source: Miami New Times coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Jul 22, 2010

On Principles & Values: As Speaker, passed 57 of "100 Innovative Ideas"

Rubio thrust himself onto the national stage thanks to a campaign called 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future. The tour had Rubio and other Republicans traveling the state for so-called idea-raiser town halls with voters. Rubio later published the ideas in a book and was hailed as a rising GOP star. (Gingrich, for example, predicted Rubio would "emerge as a national leader" and called the project "a work of genius."). By 2005, Rubio's official election ceremony as speaker felt like a coronation.

His ambition, though, again proved greater than his ability to find consensus. Both his tax plan and spending cap made it out of committee, but as the House was forced to make the deepest budget cuts in state history, the Senate refused to even take up the plans.

In the end, Rubio's two terms as speaker [ending in 2008] had yielded no flashy tax overhaul, but the House did pass 57 of his "100 Innovative Ideas."

Source: Miami New Times coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Jul 22, 2010

On Tax Reform: 2000: $4 surcharge to cruise tickets to fund Marlins stadium

Before the March 2000 session, Rubio was hardly the scorching conservative who would later woo Tea Partiers nationwide. He said he'd focus on supporting early education and community policing. And he wasn't particularly passionate about cutting spending. In his first three years, he supported adding a $4 surcharge to cruise tickets to fund a Marlins stadium and a $1.2 million earmark to build new bike paths in his district.
Source: Miami New Times coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Jul 22, 2010

On Immigration: AZ law may unreasonably single out some citizens

States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens, but Arizona's policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. While I don't believe Arizona's policy was based on anything other than trying to get a handle on our broken borders, I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with 'reasonable suspicion,' are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.
Source: Talking Points Memo coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Apr 27, 2010

On Immigration: Don't count illegal immigrants in the 2010 census

Rubio may have the experts on his side but there are political risks in Florida, just as there were when he disagreed with Crist and said illegal immigrants should not be counted in the 2010 census. That stance could cost the state millions in federal aid to cover services.
Source: St. Petersburg Times on 2010 Florida Senate debate Apr 7, 2010

On Social Security: Raise retirement age for those now under 55

On Social Security reform, Rubio said that he favored raising the age only for people younger than 55, meaning current beneficiaries would not be affected. He agrees with a sweeping entitlement reform plan advanced by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that would raise the age for full benefits to 70 by 2098, with the gradual climb beginning in 2018. The plan, which has gained notice beyond Washington, also includes changing an indexing formula under which benefits are adjusted. In the debate, Rubio said he's open to rejiggering the cost of living adjustment. Like Ryan, Rubio does not go as far as some policymakers would, including increasing payroll taxes or lifting the income ceiling for taxable income, now $106,800.

Asked what he would do, Crist said that raising the age "really flies in the face of an awful lot of my fellow Floridians" and said he would root out waste and fraud instead.

Source: St. Petersburg Times on 2010 Florida Senate debate Apr 7, 2010

On Social Security: Tough choices include raising retirement age & reducing COLA

Crist's and Rubio's answers regarding how to fix Social Security said a lot to me about the relative virtues of the candidates.

Rubio pointed out the problems facing the Social Security program and stated that we're going to have to look at the tough choices, which include raising the retirement age for younger Americans, possibly reducing Cost of Living Adjustments, and other changes to benefits. If you don't want to raise taxes--which both Crist and Rubio say they oppose--then these are pretty much your only options.

Crist replied that he opposes either a retirement age increase or changes to annual COLAs. Instead, he would focus on attacking "waste and fraud" in the system.

Rubio was willing to be upfront about the hard choices awaiting us on Social Security. This may be due to the dawning on Americans that the clock is truly ticking in terms of getting our fiscal house in order. Rubio brought up the problem of Greece's debt crisis & related it to what America may be looking at in the future.

Source: Andrew Biggs in The American, on 2010 Florida Senate debate Mar 29, 2010

On Budget & Economy: Oppose Obama stimulus package; it's bad for America

Q: From the Obama stimulus package, by the start of 2010, Florida had received $8.2 billion in stimulus funds. Gov. Crist says that has created or saved 87,000 jobs. Mr. Rubio, why is $8 billion & 87,000 jobs bad for a state that has 12% unemployment?

RUBIO: Well, if it's bad for America, it can't possibly be good for your state. Since February, 211,000 Floridians have lost their jobs. Do you want a candidate that would have voted against the stimulus and supported something that would have cost less money and created more jobs. If that's the candidate you want, that would be me. Or do you want the someone who would have voted with the Democrats for the stimulus package? And that candidate would be Gov. Crist.

CRIST: If we had taken the speaker's approach, we would have had 87,000 more people on top of that 12% that would be unemployed in Florida today.

Q: If you had been a senator in 2009 you would have voted for the stimulus?

CRIST: Yeah, it was the right thing to do at the time.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Corporations: Work across the aisle to make America more business-friendly

Q: You say you will stand up to the Obama agenda and that Gov. Crist won't. You say your favorite senator is Jim DeMint of South Carolina, who opposes the Obama agenda right down the line. Doesn't that, in effect, mean that if you're elected it's more partisan gridlock?

RUBIO: Well, partisan gridlock is not something I'm in favor of. But the problem is it depends on what you're standing for. I'd be more than happy to work across the aisle to do things like lower the capital gains tax, lower the corporate tax, flatten the tax rate, lower all of these other taxes that make America increasingly an unfriendly place to do business. And if the Obama administration tomorrow announces that that's their agenda, or the leadership in Congress does, I'll be thrilled to work with them. But what they're attempting to do is to fundamentally redefine the role of government in America, and we can't cooperate with that, because once we cross a certain point, we can't turn back.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Health Care: Provide alternatives to employer-based insurance system

Q: In an article you wrote: "Any solution should ultimately seek to promote a vibrant private market where individuals can buy health insurance the way we buy auto insurance, independent of our employer, with the kind of flexibility and coverage we need & at affordable prices." Would you move away from an employer-based health insurance system?

RUBIO: Well, it's not about moving away. It's about providing an alternative to it.

Q: If you go to Washington, would you work to repeal healthcare reform?

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Immigration: Allow children of illegals to pay in-state college tuition

Q: You say that you're against amnesty for illegals, but critics point out that as Speaker, you didn't bring to the floor several bills that would have cracked down on illegals and on employers who hire them. And you voted for a bill that would have allowed the children of illegals to pay the same college tuition as in-state residents.

RUBIO: The only place those bills ever got a hearing was on the floor of the House, and they didn't advance because the Senate didn't want to advance them. Gov. Crist didn't have an interest in them as well.

CRIST: I had an interest in them. How can you say what my interest was?

RUBIO: Well, I never saw you speak out.

Q: But you didn't bring several of these bills to the floor?

RUBIO: Well, they never go out of their committees.

Q: Some critics say you could have done more.

RUBIO: Well, we gave it a hearing. The support wasn't there among the membership at the time, & they were focused at that time on some very serious challenges in a 60-day session.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Immigration: No amnesty in any form, not even back-of-the-line

The Republican Party, unfortunately, has been cast as the anti-illegal immigration party. It is not the anti-illegal immigration party. It is the pro-legal immigration party.

Having a legal immigration system that works begins with border security. That's not enough; about 1/3 of the folks in this country illegally enter legally & they overstay visas. So we've got to deal with that issue as well.

We've got to deal with the employment aspect of it, because the vast majority of people who enter thi country illegally do so in search of jobs, and jobs are being provided to them. So we need some level of verification system so that employers are required to verify the employment status of their folks.

As far as amnesty, that's where the governor and I disagree. He would have voted for the McCain plan. I think that plan is wrong. If you grant amnesty, in any form, whether it's back of the line or so forth, you will destroy any chance we will ever have of having a legal immigration system that works.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Principles & Values: Without America, the world would be a worse place

RUBIO: People from all over America, all over Florida, are looking at this administration chip away at all the things that have made America great and unique throughout our history. America is not just exceptional nation. Without its greatness the world would be a very different and I would dare say a worse place. And all of that's being chipped away now by this administration.People are looking for leaders that will go to Washington, D.C. and stand up to this agenda and offer a clear alternative. And I've chosen to run for the United States Senate in Florida, because in Florida there's no other candidate that we can count on to actually do that. That's the basis of my campaign. It's the only reason why I'm running. And I think it's a compelling one. It's the reason why I think we've found success.
Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Principles & Values: $600,000 fund was not taxpayer money, & is fully accounted

CRIST: Speaker Rubio set up about a $600,000 slush fund which he utilized for ostensibly political purposes but it's been shown lately it's been used to fix his minivan, get haircuts, employ family members, things of this nature that are not what a political committee is supposed to do. In fact, out of the $600,000 that were raised, only $4,000 went to candidates to try to improve their chances to be elected to office.

RUBIO: Those allegations have been proven false. Here are the facts. This is not taxpayer money. It was raised for the purposes of political advancement, for advancing a political agenda. And that's what the money was spent on. Now, there were some occasions where we had some personal expenses which I identified and I made payments on out of my own pocket at the time those expenses were made. All this money's been accounted for.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Principles & Values: Attended 15-20 Tea Party events; but not formally vetted

Q: Some activists say that if elected, you will be the first Tea Party senator. On the other hand, we got a bunch of e-mails from Tea Party activists, and let's put one on the screen: "Ask Marco Rubio why he refuses to be vetted by the Florida Tea Parties. I want to hear from Rubio or I will not vote for him."

RUBIO: Sure. The Tea Party movement has been mischaracterized in the press as some sort of an organization. Tea Parties are where people go and what people do. It's not what they are and it is not an organization. If you go to a tea party, what you're going to find there are people that largely have never been involved in American politics.

Q: So why don't you go? We get this from [many] Tea Party groups.

RUBIO: I have gone to 15, 20 of these around the state. I've met with multiple groups. If there's a formal vetting process, I've not been made aware of it. But I can tell you that I'm proud of my association with the Tea Party folks and the fact that we have attended multiple events

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Principles & Values: Are Floridians better off than they were four years ago? No!

RUBIO: The governor likes to call himself a Reagan Republican. I don't ever recall Reagan being questioned about running as an independent.

CRIST: Actually, Reagan was a Democrat before he was a Republican. So if you want to talk about Reagan, let's talk about him.

RUBIO: Ronald Reagan had a great question he asked during his campaign: Are you better off today than you were four years ago? And for Floridians, there's a powerful answer to that. We have the highest unemployment record in our history We have record foreclosures. And we have a governor that supported Barack Obama's stimulus package. That doesn't sound like a Reagan record to me, and I think it makes the answer to that question very easy. Floridians are not better off than they were four years ago since you became governor. And now your promise is to take those ideas to Washington. I'm running for Senate because if I get there, I will stand up to this. We can't trust you, Governor, to stand up to Barack Obama.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Social Security: Hard choices for people under 40, to avoid runaway growth

Q: You say you would freeze federal discretionary spending except for security spending, on homeland security and the Pentagon. But that's the same spending freeze that Pres. Obama supports, which covers 13% of the federal budget.

RUBIO: The freeze is not enough. We can freeze the non-military discretionary spending and it's a good step forward. But ultimately, tackling the issue of the federal debt is going to require significant entitlement reforms. That means programs like Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid have to be reformed if we hope to save them so that they exist for my generation. That means we are going to call upon people my age--I turn 39 in May--and people that are far from retirement to make difficult but important and necessary choices to ensure that the runaway growth in entitlement programs and federal spending does not diminish our future or bankrupt America.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Social Security: Keep raising the retirement age on the table

Q: In the Wall Street Journal two weeks ago, you wrote: "Privatization of the accounts has come and gone. There are other alternatives such as raising the retirement age, etc." Are you saying that you will consider such benefit cuts as raising the retirement age?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, I think a great starting point for this conversation is the Ryan roadmap.

Q: This is Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

RUBIO: Correct. I think it's a great starting point. He does include individual accounts as part of his plan.

Q: I'm asking you about your plan.

RUBIO: On the individual accounts come and gone, that debate happened a few years ago and every year that goes by, it becomes more difficult to accomplish that. But certainly, I think if you're 55 years of age or older, this is off the table.

Q: So, would you raise the retirement age?

RUBIO: I think that has to be on the table. That's got to be part of the solution, the retirement age gradually increases for people of my generation.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Social Security: Keep cost-of-living adjustment on the table

Q: [to Rubio]: Would you change cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security?

RUBIO: I think all of that has to be on the table, including the way we index increases in cost of living. All of these issues have to be on the table [including raising the retirement age]. They are options that I would be open to.

Q: Gov. Crist, we looked all over your campaign Web site. Frankly, we couldn't find a word about Social Security reform.

CRIST: Well, I think it's important that we understand Social Security must be saved. It must be protected. The idea of having a higher age for people to be able to be eligible for Social Security really flies in the face of an awful lot of my fellow Floridians and it's something that I would not advocate. I think we need t take the fraud out of Social Security, the waste, in Medicare as well.

Q: You're saying that even for people under the age of 55 you would not raise the retirement age or you wouldn't change the cost-of-living adjustment?

CRIST: No, I would not.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Tax Reform: Proposed to replace property taxes with state sales tax

CRIST: My opponent proposed the largest tax increase in the history of my state, about a $9 billion increase in taxes. He said it would be some kind of a swap & that justifies it. But it would have hit sales tax, which would have been the most regressive tax that you could imagine--in other words, people who can least afford it have to pay the same as people who can afford a lot more.

RUBIO: It would have eliminated property taxes for all sorts of people. You said you ran as a Jeb Bush Republican. Jeb Bush supported that plan. And later on, you supported a similar plan.

Q: It would have eliminated the property tax and substituted a state tax?

RUBIO: With a revenue-neutral sales tax.

CRIST: Not revenue-neutral. It would have increased sales tax.

RUBIO: 30% of our sales tax are paid for by non-Floridians. It would have been a massive tax cut for Floridians on their property taxes.

CRIST: To the contrary. It would have been a massive tax increase.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Tax Reform: Pledged to never raise taxes as state rep

Q: [to Crist]: When you were running for governor in 2006, you pledged you would not raise taxes. Last year you signed a $2.2 billion increase in new taxes and fees. Didn't you break your promise?

CRIST: No, I don't think I did, [because the increases were all in fees].

RUBIO: I took a pledge when I became a state representative to never raise taxes. I never broke that pledge. And that's why the leader of that organization and basically every fiscally conservative group in the country has supported my candidacy.

CRIST: Actually, the speaker has broken that pledge.

RUBIO: The governor has broken his pledge. He broke it last year.

CRIST: No, that's not true. He voted for tax increases when he was on the West Miami City Commission, and he said on his Web site that he has never voted for a new tax. That's just not the truth, and he ought to be truthful to the people of Florida before he asks for their vote.

RUBIO: That's also inaccurate.

CRIST: [The press] just reported it yesterday.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate Mar 28, 2010

On Homeland Security: No evidence to change policy of don't ask, don't tell

U.S. Senate rivals Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio both said today they oppose abolishing the "don't ask, don't tell" policy affecting gays and lesbians in the military. The 1993 policy was intended to be a political compromise that let gay men and women serve so long as they stayed silent about their sexuality. But President Barack Obama and top military leaders say it is time to end the discrimination all together.

"We are a nation at war. The governor believes the current policy has worked, and there is no need to make changes," a Crist campaign spokeswoman said.

"Marco Rubio supports the current policy and doesn't see any evidence it needs to be changed," a campaign spokesman said.

Source: St. Petersburg Times' coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate Feb 4, 2010

On Principles & Values: God does not love America more than Belgium

He jackhammers his message about America's exceptional status in the world. "This is the only society in history where your future is not determined by where you were born," he said. "I believe that the United States of America is the greatest society in the history of humanity." America is unique for its belief in limited government, he says, not because it is anointed. "Does God love us more than Belgium?" he asked. "No."

Rubio's political resume essentially began right after he graduated from the University of Miami Law School. He served as a city commissioner in West Miami before winning his first term in the Florida House of Representatives in 2000. He was sworn in as speaker in 2006, the youngest person and the first Hispanic to hold that position. The centerpiece of his speech is a sweeping homage to conservative principle. "We are not debating stimulus bills or tax codes," he said. "We are debating the essence of what government should be and what role it should play."

Source: New York Times on 2010 Florida Senate debate Jan 10, 2010

The above quotations are from 2010 Florida Senate debates.
Click here for other excerpts from 2010 Florida Senate debates.
Click here for other excerpts by Marco Rubio.
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Marco Rubio on other issues:
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Foreign Policy
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Page last updated: Nov 01, 2010