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ICYMI: Rubio Joins WMFE’s Engage for Inaugural Broadcast
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined WMFE’s Engage to discuss the Senate border deal, Israel and Ukraine funding, Congressional gridlock, and more. See below for highlights and listen to the full interview here.
On why the border deal is an “easy no”:
“Let’s just start with the premise that the president has the authority needed to remedy what’s caused this border crisis. What we’re dealing with is not an immigration issue.
“This has to do with the runaway border crisis that began when [President Biden] got rid of Remain in Mexico, got rid of safe third country requirements, and stopped detaining migrants that illegally entered the country. All these things were signals that if you came to America, you had an 85 to 90 percent chance of being able to enter the country and remain, probably permanently, though not legally, under his administration. He has the ability to reverse all those decisions.
“That said, if he puts all those back in place and shows a willingness to enforce the law, there are some things we can do to the law to improve it, to make it work even better, assuming the willingness is there to do it. But it really starts with him taking those steps. Remember, he spent two-and-a-half to three years saying there was no border crisis, and now he claims he wants to fix it.
“But then, you go through the provisions of the bill, of which I said: ‘Let’s wait for this thing to come out. I don’t want to opine on it on the basis of rumors and leaks.’ Frankly, it reads like a parody. It reads like a bill that’s written to mock and troll people who believe our borders should be secured. As an example, it gives the Homeland Security Director, Alejandro Mayorkas, the ability, for the first time in the history of this country, to adjudicate asylum cases bureaucratically at the border through agents that work for him, to decide right off the bat whether people are entitled to that.
“As the sponsor of the bill, Senator Murphy of Connecticut, detailed in text messages last night, the bill never actually shuts down the border. They’ll say, ‘The average [number of border crossings] is not to exceed 5,000 a day for [seven] days or 8,500 in any single day.’ There are these provisions that will allow them to shut down that portion of the border. What they don’t tell you is that the trigger number does not include unaccompanied children, which is about a third of the people that cross the border on some days. The number is actually not 5,000. It’s significantly higher than that before you even hit that trigger. By the way, that authority goes away in three years. All of these other things stay forever.
“It’s a long laundry list [of bad policies]. I’m rereading it again and making notes on it, but I’ve seen enough to tell you that this is not a border security bill. I don’t care what they call it in the press release.”
On how President Biden created the chaos at the border:
“At the end of the day, we have authorities right now to secure the border.
“[Under President Trump], if you went to a third country, let’s say you came from Colombia and you stopped on the way in Honduras, you could not then come to America. You were automatically not going to be accepted, because you had a safe third country that you went to in the interim. You might have been fleeing whatever it is you were fleeing, but that didn’t automatically allow you entry into the United States, especially if you were in another country outside of your home country before you came here.
“If you re-instituted that; if Biden announced, ‘We are going to fully utilize the bed space we have available today, which is underutilized to detain adults who cross the border;’ if he said, ‘Those who apply for asylum that are in Mexico…have to apply from Mexico on a weighted decision…;’ If Biden reinstituted those three policies alone, the border crossings would dramatically decline.
“The border crisis is being driven by perception. The people coming to this country do not know what the law is. They are operating on the reality that if they get across that border and turn themselves in, they have an 85 to 90 percent chance of being released into the country, pending a future immigration hearing that most do not show up for. They know this, because they know people that have done it, perhaps in their own family.
“The president has the authority now to end it, because this all began the day he took over and repealed all these policies. His refusal to do so and his spending two-and-a-half years denying that we even have a border crisis puts this squarely on his shoulders and on his administration’s shoulders. They wanted to reverse everything Trump did, and as a result, they created this crisis.”
On how Congress plays a role in immigration law:
“At the end of the day, we pass laws, but laws have to be enforced. The law says, ‘Here’s the law,’ and then it gives power to the executive agencies to enforce the law. You can make things illegal, but if the police officers won’t arrest people, and if the prosecutors won’t prosecute them, as we’ve seen in city after city, then the law is largely ineffective. The law is only as good as your willingness to enforce it.
“In the case of immigration, there are those in this administration and in previous administrations who have made the decision to not enforce the law for reasons they justify. If you look at Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA], it is an order not to enforce the law on people who came at a certain time and at a certain age. They’ve done that well beyond just DACA. They’ve done it case after case.
“What they’re saying is, ‘If you enter the United States, even though you have no right to be here, we are going to release you into the country, and we’re going to give you a date in the future down the road to appear at an asylum hearing. In the meantime, we’ll give you a work permit and documents so you can travel the country, and we’ll turn you over to a charity that will help you buy a plane ticket or a bus ride to the city of your choice.
“They decided not to enforce the immigration law. We in Congress can pass laws. But, you need to have a president willing to execute the law, and that’s really the fundamental problem we’re confronting.”
On packaged funding for Israel and Ukraine:
“If we put up Israel’s vote today for funding, it would pass. I wouldn’t say unanimously, but it would pass overwhelmingly, in the House and Senate. The reason why we are not going to be able to do that is because Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will not allow it. The reason why he won’t allow it is because he knows that Israel is popular, so he wants it linked to all these other things that may not have the same level of support.
“Another piece is the Indo-Pacific funding, particularly for Taiwan. I support funding for Ukraine, as long as there’s a plan and a strategy in place, which I think some of the appropriation language that the people worked on for this bill requires. I don’t think we can just get up and run away from [Ukraine]. I think if you put each of these up for a vote by themselves, they would pass, by different margins, but they would pass. But they’ve linked them all together, in order to say, ‘If you want Israel, you have to vote for all these other things.’
“And the reverse is true. They’re saying to Americans who want border security, ‘If you want border security, you have to give money for Ukraine; you have to give money for all these foreign priorities.’ These are not unimportant priorities, but they link these things on purpose.
“If there’s a bill before me that funds Israel’s efforts, I’m for it. The reason why Israel is still getting money and it’s not as urgent yet is because of a bill I passed that authorized funding for Israel for the next 10 years. That’s already been built in. But they’re going to need more or at least replenishment, in future years, of what they’re drawing down on now.
“Each of these bills would pass on their own, but they want to tie them all together, because they know that the Israel one is very popular, and they think they can use that to force people to vote for things they don’t support.”
On working American families:
“I think the most underheard people in America today, and this has probably been true now for more than 25 years, are normal, everyday working American families.
“People that get up in the morning, that don’t necessarily follow politics on social media hour by hour, that work hard, prices have gone up for them. They go home, and they turn on the TV, and they see our borders being overrun. They’re not necessarily isolationist, but I think they have questions about all the problems we have in our country: ‘Why do we spend so much in these other places?’ Their kids did everything they were told. They went to school, they got good grades, they went to college, they got a degree. Now, those kids with that degree cannot find a job, but they owe a bunch of money. People that are frustrated that things which used to be widely accepted are now considered abnormal or wrong, or you can’t talk about them anymore.
“There has never, in the modern history of our country, been a bigger disconnect between the people that run things and the people in charge of things and people in power and everyday people in this country. That phenomenon is what leads to what is called, in the vernacular, populism. That’s what happens when people feel that no matter who they vote for or who they put in charge, what they care about, their priorities, are not the priorities of those who are in power.
“To me, those real life, everyday issues that consume people, the cost of living, the concerns about their children’s future, their safety and security, the fact that the world seems to be catching fire everywhere, these are the things that are tormenting people and that doesn’t seem to get enough attention, in either the media or in politics.”
On the importance of voting and holding elected officials accountable:
“The most important thing is the voting piece of it. But [voting] alone is not enough. [Another] part of it is also accountability, holding those who you elect accountable to staying true to that.
“It’s a tough thing. There are a lot of things that our government has to do and be involved in that aren’t necessarily daily priorities, but they matter, and so those things are important to take care of. There’s a part of leadership that also requires informing people of things and explaining to them why certain things matter, for example, why the U.S. has got up and walked away from Ukraine and how it could actually hurt us in our alliance system, which is critical to our country’s security.
“I think people are more receptive to that if they feel like those who are in charge have not completely ignored and never talk about the things they talk about. I think that level of accountability, in how people opine on politics on a daily basis and, ultimately, how they vote, is really important. It explains why, today, candidates…have become increasingly untraditional. Candidates have become increasingly appealing to people who feel like: ‘We’ve already tried the traditional way, and it hasn’t worked. Let’s send some people up there that will shake things up.’
“There are some negatives attached to that, too, if it becomes entertainment and showmanship. You have to actually show action and get things done. But I think it explains a lot of that phenomenon. It’s not just here in America. It’s happening in countries around the world.”
On Rubio’s message to Floridians about gridlock in Congress:
“I get on an airplane every week and fly up [to the Senate], and we spend another week, for example, voting on nominees, but not on public policy that would make a difference. I think there’s a lot of gamesmanship that’s going on.
“If this were a normal process run by people in everyday life, they would say: ‘What do we agree on? We all agree on Israel. Okay, let’s get that one done. We don’t entirely agree on Ukraine. Can we come up with a level of funding that we agree on?’ And then we’d get that done. On the border they would say: ‘How can anybody be for what’s happening now? How can anybody be for the fact that, every single day, 7,000 to 10,000 people just walk into America? Like we saw in New York the other day, some of them commit crimes, and they’re going to the streets. How can that be happening? How can that not be a priority for everybody?’
“But that’s not how politics is played today. The way it’s played today is, you go up there, and you say: ‘Okay, everybody’s in favor of Israel, but we’re not going to vote on that. We’re not going to vote on that until we agree on everything else.’
“There are groups out there that may not be majorities, but they’re powerful interest groups that don’t want anything done about the border. In fact, they don’t think this is a crisis. They think the only crisis is that we’re not letting people in fast enough. Those elements play out as well. Even though they don’t represent the majority, they represent a significant percentage of one of the party’s voting bases. That’s really what impedes them. There’s always been elements of that.
“Now, unfortunately, what’s happened is, the differences are so dramatic between both sides that it is really difficult to find agreement. Unless we’re hitting some sort of a deadline or we’re facing some sort of unavoidable catastrophe, we put off a lot of really important decisions.
“I know it’s frustrating to people at home. I can tell you it’s really frustrating to someone who went into this process with the hopes of making a difference and getting things done, and every year, it’s gotten harder to do that.”
On Rubio’s optimism for the passage of meaningful legislation:
“I believe, ultimately, we’ll fund the government. I don’t know if that’s progress, but I think it’s important not to have these shutdowns, which are very disruptive and damaging.
“As far as legislation is concerned, when you get into an election year, it’s going to become harder and harder to pass meaningful pieces of legislation. There are things that passed under the National Defense Authorization Act. They’re not exciting, they don’t draw a lot of clicks and ratings, but they’re important. There are things embedded in those laws that actually make a difference. We would know it made a difference if we didn’t do them. I think there will continue to be things like that that get done.
“I think there might be a chance to make some progress on tax reform, like the expanded child tax credit, assuming it continues to be linked to work and not turned into a government transfer payment.
“But as far as major achievements, I think the differences are so vast, and our system is set up to be incremental to begin with, that I don’t think six months is enough time to get anything transformational done.
“That doesn’t mean we can’t get important things done, but it would require us making that a priority in both the House and Senate. Right now, the Senate largely spends its time voting on nominees.”
On Rubio’s thoughts regarding banning social media for kids under 16:
“I haven’t read the bill. My only concern about it would be that social media is not a state phenomenon. It is an interstate commerce issue. It involves things across state lines. It’s very difficult for states to regulate that. My sense is some court would probably strike it down on those grounds.
“I do think there should be some higher levels of control as to what children of a certain age can get permission to do on these social media platforms. I think parents should be empowered with more controls. By the same token, I don’t want to leave the impression that this is going to be an easy thing to do in terms of passing a state law, and all of a sudden, every one of these social media platforms is going to ban people that are under 16 years of age. When you talk about things that you’re conducting online, it’s hard sometimes to even know the age of those people. There’s loopholes around it. As a parent, I can tell you this generation is very good at finding ways to work around technology.
“I do think the topic is a valid one, and that there are some positives that come with social media. We get news and information and awareness and connection faster than we ever have. There are businesses that rely heavily on social media for marketing. But like any innovation, there are negatives. One of those negatives is, this young generation of Americans is being bombarded with information set by analytics that often are things that are not positive and healthy. I do think that’s an issue that we’re going to need to confront as a country.
“I don’t know if some bill in one state can solve it, but I’m not an expert on the Florida law. I’ve not read it. I’ve read stories about it, but I don’t know all the details of it. But I think the broader topic is a very legitimate one.”
On how big tech makes its revenue:
“When these companies first started, everybody said, ‘How are they going to make money?’ The answer is, they make money by advertising. The value of advertising on [these platforms] is, they know who’s watching, and they can promise you not just an audience, but an audience that’s captive.
“Their algorithm tells them who the people are that are likeliest to respond to a message or likeliest to respond to a product. That’s what makes them valuable. What that means on the flip side is, they have to show you things that are interesting, that people want to see. Oftentimes, people like to see scandalous, outrageous, and maybe damaging [content]. Such content seen by a 40 or 50 or 35-year-old mind has a very different impact than when someone who is 13 to 16 is exposed to it.
“I think that is the dynamic those companies are struggling with. What makes them valuable, what allows them to make money, is their ability to show people online what those people will be interested in and want to see, and what is going to get clicks and generate attention. Oftentimes, it generates clicks and attention that may be harmful, may be encouraging harm.
“These companies do not want to go too far in policing this stuff, because ultimately it hurts what makes them valuable and what allows them to monetize their product. They can apologize after the fact, and they can do things on the front end to high publicity. But, at the end of the day, they make money because their algorithm is very good at identifying what is going to generate attention, and what is going to generate attention is not always good for young minds. They’re not going to go overboard in regulating that unless forced to, because it hurts their bottom line.”
On the property insurance crisis:
“It is [something on my radar], because I pay for it. Everybody I know pays for it. I myself have seen probably a 300 percent increase in property insurance in the last two years. It’s getting really tough for a lot of people out there.
“When I was in the state legislature, property insurance was a Southeast Florida problem. It has now become statewide. Part of it is driven by the fact that these companies don’t want to write policies here anymore. The fewer companies you have writing policies, the fewer choices there are, the more expensive it gets. It’s not an easy problem to solve, because those markets are largely set internationally. It’s complicated. There’s reinsurance involved, and that’s written offshore, outside of the United States. But it most certainly is one of those issues on my radar.
“Florida has a lot going for it. One of the things that is really beginning to crush down on people is property insurance, not just for homeowners, but for commercial properties, which drives up rents, which in turn drives up prices, which fuels itself. It is a very dramatic challenge.
“It doesn’t have an easy solution, other than figuring out ways to make Florida a more competitive state for property insurance. I’m not sure there’s a federal nexus to how to solve it. It really is a state-regulated market, but it is an issue on my radar, just as a Floridian and as someone who lives here. I don’t know anyone who’s not impacted by it.”
On what Congress has accomplished in this past year:
“Our system is designed to not pass a lot of laws. When our system was designed, they never envisioned having a federal government that did as much as it does. It reserved most of the powers to the states which are closer to people. I think that’s still generally wise. There’s things like foreign policy that are federal in nature, most certainly, but that’s the reality of it. I think that’s always true when you think about how hard it is to get things passed through Congress.
“Add the dynamic that the House was largely not open for business for some period of time this year. Add to that dynamic a Senate in which, although the Democrats are in the majority, don’t have 60 votes, so they’d have to get past filibusters. Add to that the almost sectarian-type divide in our politics, where both sides are far away from each other on the basis of what they believe our country should be doing. I think it explains a lot of the gridlock.
“These last two years have felt a little less productive because most of the things that the House can pass can’t pass in the Senate, and most of the things the Senate can pass, the House can’t pass. I think that’s a dynamic that we’re facing that’s real. It’s frustrating. I know it’s frustrating for people when you look at major issues and see them unresolved. It’s really frustrating for someone who is in this process in the hopes of being able to make a difference. You get up there every week, and you’re basically voting on nominees, which are not unimportant, but you see very little work done on bringing things to the floor that have to do with meaningful legislation.
“There are a bunch of things that may not be dramatic, may not be high profile, but that we could pass, and the majority leader has decided not to schedule those things for floor votes. That is frustrating to me, and I don’t understand what his strategy is behind it, but he’s decided not to do that.”