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ICYMI: Rubio on Squawk Box
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Squawk Box on CNBC to discuss the prospect of passing another relief bill, the threat TikTok poses to our national security, and the state of COVID-19 in Florida. See below for highlights and watch the full interview here.
On relief bill negotiations:
“We need to be realistic here… the only way you get a bill passed… you’ve got to get it passed out of the Senate, which under our rules require Democrats and Republicans to vote for it, you need 60 votes. You’ve got to get it passed in the House, which is controlled by Democrats, and you have to have a Republican President sign it. So that means anything we come up with is going to have to have things that both sides make concessions on and both sides get priorities in. And the only way to do that is for each side to kind of move towards each other to get a deal done. Up until last night, there was no movement towards each other. At least now there’s been an agreement to say, ‘All right, well, we want to get a deal done by the end of this week so we can have a vote on it early next week and get it done.’ So that’s a positive sign; obviously there’s a lot of work to be done now to bridge some of these divides, which are still pretty wide on issues like unemployment, foreclosure, liability protections, and things of that nature.
“I think we have to do something. The biggest problem here, the worst thing that could happen is that we do nothing — just let this thing ride on its own — and we’re going to be back here. Because, for example, the PPP funds for most small businesses have been exhausted, They spent through their eight weeks payroll. So you’re going to begin to see, at some point, small business lay-offs again. As companies ran out of the PPP money, there’s still great uncertainty in whatever sector they’re in, and they start laying people off. So that’s a real thing and we are going to see it, and unfortunately then that begins to trickle across the rest of the economy, including the real estate sector because they can’t pay rent.
“So we have to act. We have to do something. And that will require us to vote for a bill that has things in it that I may not necessarily like. Now, there’s a limit to what you’re gonna take. I’m not going to pass the $3 [trillion] HEROES Act or whatever they called it, which has all kinds of stuff in there that has nothing to do with the pandemic… So everyone’s going to have to do something to get what we want, which is the nature of divided government.”
On the inclusion of low interest, forgivable loans in the next relief bill as proposed by Senators Bennet and Young:
“I think their idea is a very good idea. The problem is we don’t even have $300 billion in the entire small business sector of the bill… What we’ve been told that we have is a little under $300 billion, and that includes about $125 billion that rolls over of unspent PPP money. So we don’t even have $300 billion for the whole program, not to mention for that specific one.
“We have tried to incorporate a version of that idea scaled down, for example, opportunity zones and new market tax credit zones — where we know there are small businesses in low income neighborhoods that have very little money on hand beyond a couple weeks if at all. So we tried to take the general concept and sort of scale it down. So I’m not against the idea, right now we just don’t have $300 billion allocated to us to do it. I also think that it could be a challenge for the Small Business Administration to administer something that big and that new — we saw the challenges of getting PPP up and running — so I’d like to see some runway on when it starts up, because they’re going to need some time to get something like that operational. But the problem isn’t the concept, we just haven’t been allocated the money right now to do it.”
On allowing talks to take place between TikTok and Microsoft:
“I talked to the Secretary of the Treasury, I talked to the Chief of Staff, I talked to the President and I shared my view. A couple of points: it’s not that TikTok, and before Musical.ly which Bytedance bought, it’s not the videos that are the problem… 15 second videos, they’re actually pretty funny videos on many occasions and certainly very interesting. It’s not the videos, it is the data. Data is more valuable than gold. Personal data today is more valuable than gold. That data is what commerce is going to be built in, what medicine and pharmaceuticals, everything is going to be based on.
“The difference between TikTok and the other social media apps is, by Chinese law, Bytedance has to turn over all of their data to the Chinese government, in fact their disclosure says so. I don’t care where they store it, that is the big problem.
“So if the company can be sold or transferred to a company that sets up processes to protect that data from any government coming in and just grabbing all of it because they want it, then I think it’s fine. If they can’t, then they can’t continue to exist.”
On COVID-19 in Florida:
“Well, what happens is that COVID because a big deal in the news again and then people start to change their lives… What happened is, coronavirus fell out of the news for a couple days when the protests started. That, combined with the reopening — people got comfortable, they started going out, they started doing things like things were back to normal and the virus sort of was no longer a threat. The virus was still a threat, it just wasn’t as prevalent. And then you saw the numbers surge.
“Deaths are a lagging indicator, so it’s kind of the last thing on the continuum. First, you’ll see the emergency room visits, then you’ll see the cases, then you’ll see the hospitalizations, and then you’ll see the deaths. So we’ve seen all of those. The emergency room visits, the cases, the hospitalizations, began to track down, and then the last thing to come down is the deaths.
“But if we reach better numbers, the virus is still out there. It’s not like the virus is 20% less, it’s still dangerous. So it is important for us to learn lessons from the first time. And as we go back, we don’t go back to normal — we go back to the new normal. Which, for some time until we make more advances against this disease, will require us to do many things differently than we used to do before.”