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ICYMI: Rubio Joins CNN’s State of the Union

Oct 2, 2022 | Press Releases

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined CNN’s State of the Union to discuss the latest on Hurricane Ian and what comes next.

  • “In times like this, people realize that this is not about politics.…

  • “We’ll know what [people’s] full needs are in the long term…. There will be a lot of people who have no homes to return to now…, [and] they’ll be eligible for individual assistance.

  • “We’re still in the search and rescue process…, and then, of course, begins the process of rebuilding to the extent possible, which will take years. Some of these [places,] Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, they’ll never look the same again. These communities [have] basically been wiped out.… They’ll recover, but they’ll never be the same.”  — Senator Rubio

Want more? Read Rubio’s letter on the need for a disaster supplemental spending bill to help Florida recover, watch the full interview here, and see below for a lightly edited transcript. 

On federal aid to Florida:

“There will be more that’s needed. But as usual and always, FEMA has been a great partner. The Biden Administration has responded, as they’ve said. And so there’s no complaints there. These are professionals. And I think in times like this, people realize that this is not about politics. It shouldn’t be. That’s the way it’s always been, and that’s our expectation…. 

“We’ll know what [the] full needs are in the long term…. There will be a lot of people who have no homes to return to now or in the near future. They’ll be eligible for individual assistance. We’re still in the search and rescue process, although I think it now starts becoming more about search and recovery. 

“And then, of course, begins the process of rebuilding to the extent possible, which will take years. Some of these [places,] Fort Myers Beach, Sanibel, they’ll never look the same again. These communities have basically been wiped out. And so now it’ll be about the long term.”

On the communities devastated by Hurricane Ian:

“They’ll recover, they just won’t be the same. If you talk about, for example, Fort Myers Beach, this is like a slice of Old Florida. It was still a place where a lot of families [went] and created memories, my own family included, on places like Sanibel, years ago. I think it’s the first beach my daughter, who’s now 22, ever went to with us. And a lot of families around Florida made memories on those places. Obviously, they’re going to be rebuilt, but they won’t look the same, because you can’t rebuild Old Florida. Some of those places that have been there for so long are just gone.”

On Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Fiona and the issue of statehood:

“I’ve long believed the people of Puerto Rico should be given the opportunity to vote for statehood. It’s a 50/50 issue there, some say. I think actually the statehood support has grown. They certainly have a right to have that vote. These are American citizens. I think on a per capita basis, Puerto Ricans serve in the armed forces at a higher rate than just about any community in the country. 

“Part of the challenge with Puerto Rico is that unlike a contiguous state, mutual aid is difficult, because you’ve got to send it there. There’s still tremendous devastation [from Hurricane Fiona]. And as you pointed out, close to 200,000 people still have no power. They seem to be in a better position to respond this time around, because there were prepositioned assets, because part of the grid had been rebuilt since the last storm. It proved more resilient. 

“I have personal friends that live in Puerto Rico who last night were, in some parts of the island, going about their lives…. But there are still close to 200,000 people with no power, and as you said, probably 170,000 that have no access to clean drinking water. 

“I don’t expect they’ll be left behind. I think the president will be traveling there early next week as well. And we’ll do everything we can—we always have—to support Puerto Rico…in the recovery after yet another devastating storm.”

On federal disaster relief: 

“I’ve always voted for hurricane and disaster relief. I’ve even voted for it without pay-fors. What I didn’t vote for was [Superstorm] Sandy’s [relief bill] because they had included things like a roof for a museum in Washington, D.C., for fisheries in Alaska. It had been loaded up with a bunch of things that had nothing to do with disaster relief. 

“I would never put out there that we should go use a disaster relief package for Florida as a way to pay for all kinds of other things people want around the country. I think that’s the key in moments like this. And Sandy, unfortunately, they loaded it up, they really did, with a bunch of things that had nothing to do with Sandy. 

“But I voted for every disaster relief package, especially that’s clean, and I’ll continue to do so when it comes to Florida. I’ll do that again, and we’ll make sure that that package is clean and doesn’t have stuff for other people in there….”

On ensuring the efficient use of Hurricane Ian relief funds:

“I’ll fight against [the relief package] having pork in it. That’s the key. And we shouldn’t have that in there, because it undermines the ability to come back and do this in the future. 

“Here’s what happens, and people need to understand it: we can do [federal disaster relief] without loading it with these other things, because otherwise you’ll have people in the Senate and the House that are going to vote against disaster relief, because they view these disaster relief bills as ways for other people to get their pork and their pet projects done. And it undermines the ability to go back to do it in the future. 

“But I have consistently voted for disaster relief for all parts of this country, and I’ve never even insisted on it being paid for like some people do—they want cuts somewhere else in the budget. I think disaster relief is something we shouldn’t play with. 

“We are capable in this country, in the Congress, of voting for disaster relief after key events like this without using it as a vehicle or a mechanism for people to load it up with stuff that’s unrelated to the storm.” 

On Ukrainian military gains:

“I think they’re on a path to regain a lot of territory. I can’t tell you exactly from a tactical perspective how much of it they’ll regain. I think that the bigger issue here is that there really is no way for Russia and Putin to win this war or any of their objectives. 

“Putin is down to two choices here. Number one, they can design defensive lines and say,…this is a territory we’re going to try to hold on to, and concentrate his forces in that regard, and take a couple of years to retrofit their forces. Or, they can retreat and continue to lose territory. They certainly don’t have offensive capability right now. 

“The worry becomes the unpredictability of what Putin does in a situation like that. If he decides that, for example, the NATO arming and the European arming and the U.S. arming of Ukraine is causing not just him to lose his war and therefore undermine his grip on power, but in fact perhaps threatening his armed forces inside of Russia, I think it’s quite possible that he could end up striking some of these distribution places where these supplies are coming through, including inside Poland. 

“[There’s been] a lot of talk about nuclear [weapons], but I think the thing I worry most about is a Russian attack inside NATO’s territory—for example, aiming at the airport in Poland or some other distribution point, which at that point would trigger [a response from NATO].” 

On how NATO would respond to a Russian strike in NATO territory:

“I think it would depend on the nature of the strike and how the other allies within NATO would respond to it. [A Russian strike in NATO territory] certainly would be an attack on one. And so therefore, certainly, NATO will have to respond to it. How it will respond, I think a lot of it will depend on the nature of the attack, and the scale and scope of it. 

“But I think that’s really the biggest fear right now that I have, is that [Putin] would conduct an attack against a NATO supply center inside of a place like Poland. That would certainly raise the specter of a direct Russian attack against a NATO ally.”
On the risk of Putin using a nuclear weapon:

“I’m not saying the risk of him detonating a nuclear device as a demonstration is zero. I think certainly the risk is probably higher today than it was a month ago. I just think if you walk down that escalation path, before he gets to that point, which is a pretty severe escalation, there’s probably something [intermediate] he would do…. 

“What’s the purpose of a tactical nuclear weapon detonated for demonstration purposes? It’s to send a message. But I think if he believes that this arming of Ukraine is what’s causing him to lose this war and potentially his position of power, he may strike one of these logistical points, and that logistical point may not be inside of Ukraine. That is the area that I focus on the most, because it has a tactical aspect to it, and I think he probably views it as less escalatory. NATO may not.”

On leaks from the Nord Stream pipeline:

“I think logic and common sense will tell you that these things don’t blow up on their own, especially in strategic and key points. Someone has to know where the vulnerabilities are, and someone has to have the capability to go down there and do it. So there’s only a handful of countries that do. 

“I doubt very seriously that the Chinese are involved in it. Although I’m not a fan of the Chinese Communist Party, I wouldn’t go as far as to accuse them of doing that. I think it’s pretty clear someone did this, and the only people in that region who have both the motive and the capability to have done it are Russian or Russian forces. So I think for me, it’s not an intelligence matter at this point. It’s a common sense matter.”

On the U.S. prisoner swap with the Maduro regime in Venezuela:

“The two Venezuelans that were released are the nephews of Maduro, who happened to be convicted drug dealers. They were put in jail after being convicted after a fair trial in the United States. Evidence was produced, and it was overwhelming. The seven Americans were hostages. 

“Here’s my problem with it: that has now put a price tag on Americans. [It happens] every time you do one of these deals. And I wanted those people released as much as anybody. But every time you do this, now others know, ‘I can take Americans, I can hold them until I need something as a bargaining chip.’ So what that has done is now sent a message to tyrants and dictators all over the world to go ahead and trump up some charges and arrest some Americans, because when the time comes, we’ll be able to exchange them. 

“I think seven innocent American hostages in exchange for two convicted drug dealers who happen to be the nephews of Maduro, it’s a huge win for Maduro and unfortunately puts Americans all over the world now in danger.”