Fighting for Florida

SENATOR RUBIO ON THE FUTURE OF U.S. SPACE EXPLORATION

CBS’ CHRIS WAGGE: In 2009 alone, NASA spent $2 billion in your state of Florida. We’re seeing that the loss of the shuttle program is having a huge impact, like we just saw in Kelly’s piece right there. What can be done to minimize the effect? What do you tell the people of a place like Titusville to say hang in there?

RUBIO: Well, first of all Kelly's piece I think accurately outlines the impact that it has locally in Florida. NASA and the space shuttle program is critically important for my state, but it’s also important for the country. I mean there's a national security component to the space program. There’s all kinds of economic and commercial applications that are developed in space so I think that the impact of it will be felt ultimately across the country including in Texas and other parts of the country where there are contractors and here's what I tell people back home that have been displaced by this, and that is the sooner we can get a replacement program in place the better, and that’s what we’re focused on because right now we don't have anything to replace the shuttle and that's why these folks are hurting.

SENATOR RUBIO ON THE DEBT CEILING

WAGGE: I want to ask you on quick question about the debt ceiling. The President talking about a massive $4 trillion cut to the deficit, we've reported this morning that the democrats have agreed to cut into some entitlements, republicans have agreed to closing some loopholes, Representative Cantor was on the program with us this morning, do you feel that a deal is now imminent with these new plans on the table?

RUBIO: Well -- I hope – I don't know about imminent. I don't want to exaggerate but I'm hopeful that there's been progress. But ultimately the outlines of the deal have to involve the control of spending and a growth in the economy and I think one of the ways we can help grow our economy is through tax reform not tax increases.  But there things in the tax code that are broken and wrong and don't make any sense. Let's reform those things and let’s flatten the tax code so that it's fair and lower for everybody. That will help our economy grow and that will create more taxpayers and that will generate more revenue that we can use to pay down the debt.

Over the last two weeks, we’ve had a deepening divide between the White House and Congress over Libya. It’s a clash that’s been both completely avoidable and also, quite frankly, counterproductive.

First, let me say that for the life of me, I do not understand why this administration did not bring this issue to the Congress from the outset. In the early days of the Libyan rebellion, the President should have come to the Congress, informed us that an armed rebellion had arisen against Libya’s anti-American, criminal dictator. That the rebels were asking for our assistance in establishing a no-fly zone over Libyan air space so that they could take care of the dictator themselves. And that with our support, he intended to work with our allies to establish such a no-fly zone.

If this President had done that then, I believe he would have found support here and that, by the way, Qaddafi would have been gone a long time ago.

But instead, this administration waited. And while it did, Qaddafi reestablished momentum and began to carry out a new level of atrocities unprecedented even by his murderous standards. And then, only when the Qaddafi mercenaries were on the outskirts of Benghazi threatening to massacre thousands of innocent civilians, did the President finally agree to participate.

But even that was botched. First, we ceded most of the operation over to our NATO allies. And God bless them for trying, but they do not have the military capability to finish the job.

Second, the President never consulted Congress, again ignoring a co-equal branch of government unnecessarily.

And then, when finally he was pressed under the War Powers Act, he claimed that the United States is not involved in “hostilities” in Libya.

Why we have reached this point is something history will have to explain. Suffice it to say that it didn’t have to be this way. And the reason why it is, is 100 percent the result of the President’s failure to lead.

Now, with all that being said, we need to decide what to do next. This is not about Hawks versus Doves, or Interventionists versus Isolationists, or any of the other labels that people throw around here.

And this cannot be about how upset we are at the President for botching the handling of this matter.

What we need to do next should be decided based on what is in the best interest of our country.

And here is the reality: Whether you agree with it or not, the United States is engaged in a fight. And it is a fight that only has two possible endings.

It can end with the fall of a brutal, criminal, anti-American dictator.

Or it could end in the dictator’s victory over our allies and us.

I would suggest that, given these two choices, the best choice for America is the first one, the fall of the anti-American dictator.

So going forward, how can we do we do this?

First, we should officially recognize the Transitional National Council.

Second, we should provide additional resources to support the council, including access to Libya’s frozen funds here in the United States. And by the way, we should also make sure that those frozen funds are used to reimburse us, the United States, for the cost of the operation.

Third, we should intensify strike operations to target the Qaddafi regime and get rid of this guy once and for all, and as soon as possible.

Then, fourth, we should go home and allow the Libyan people to build a new nation and a new future for themselves.

Now I understand that, rightfully so, many here in Congress and across America are weary of more war and more overseas engagement during a time of severe budget restraints here at home.

But the fact remains that whether you agree with it or not, we are already involved. We are already involved in Libya. We have already spent a considerable amount of money there. And we’re going to let all of this go to waste? Are we prepared to walk away and get stuck with a lose-lose proposition? We spent all the money on Libya, and Qaddafi is still around.

It is in our national interest to get this over with already.

This afternoon, the Foreign Relations Committee will meet to consider a resolution on this matter. I am concerned that rather than push the President to do what is necessary to bring this conflict to a successful conclusion, some are pushing to restrict our campaign.

No matter how you may feel about the original decision, we must now deal with the situation as it now stands. And the bottom line here is that if we withdraw from our air war over Libya, it will lengthen the conflict, it will increase its cost to American taxpayers, and raise doubts about U.S. leadership among friends and foes alike.

Here is what withdrawal will mean in real terms:

1. The coalition would quickly unravel. Qaddafi would emerge victorious, even more dangerous and determined to seek his revenge through terrorism against the countries in NATO and the Arab League that tried and failed to overthrow him.

2. We would see a bloodbath inside Libya. This killer Qaddafi will unleash unspeakable horrors against the Libyan people. And the ripple effects will be felt all across the Middle East. For example, the pro-democracy movements in places like Iran and Syria would conclude that they too might be abandoned. And the dictators they oppose would be emboldened.

3. Our disengagement would irreparably harm the NATO alliance.

I fully understand, I do, the frustrations at the way the President has handled this situation. But the answer to any problem is not to make it worse.

Some may think that what we do here this afternoon, or later when we return, on the resolution is largely symbolic. Simply intended to "send a message" to the White House.

And yes, it will send a message to the President, but it will also send a message to Qaddafi and those around him.

And here is the message that I fear we may send: that the coalition is breaking and that Qaddafi’s regime might yet win. I know that’s not anyone’s intention around here, but it is the very real risk we run.

There is a better, more pragmatic way forward.

Let’s pass a resolution backing these activities.

For those frustrated with the President’s failure to adequately make the case for our involvement, our job in Congress is to push the administration to do a better job explaining our effort in Libya.

Here is the good news: The tide in Libya appears to be turning against Qaddafi.

And at the same time, the Qaddafi regime has been shaken by further defections and collapsing international support.

Libya is at a critical juncture. And for the United States, there is only one acceptable outcome: The removal of the Qaddafi regime and, with it, the opportunity for the Libyan people to build a free and democratic society.

On Raising Taxes In A Debt Deal

Senator Rubio: “I think clearly many in the Democratic base have said that they want that on the table. Unfortunately for them, and I think fortunately for the country, I don't think there's going to be support for that in Washington, including among many Democrats…

“I think ultimately the votes are not there, certainly in the Senate… but I know among Republicans the votes aren't there. Because, number one, there's no way you can tax your way to prosperity. Number two, our tax code is already a source of great uncertainty and worry and concern about the future. And number three, even if he wanted to, which I do not, there's no tax they could raise that would accomplish the deficit reduction they're talking about… if you raise to 100 percent the taxes on every rich American under their definition of rich, which is people making over $250,000 or more a year, it still wouldn't make a dent on the debt.”

Sen. Rubio: “We Can’t Cut Our Way To Prosperity”

Senator Rubio: “We need to grow our way into prosperity, and that means economic growth. And government can be a facilitator of that in creating an environment where job creators are incentivized to create jobs. Job creators are not governments, they're not presidents, they're not U.S. senators. Job creators are everyday people from all walks of life that start a business or expand an existing business, and what we need are government policies that make it easier for them to do that and that encourage them to do that. So if that's what the president means, I think that's very good.”

On Raising The Debt Ceiling: “A Golden Opportunity To Confront The Issues That Stand Between Us And The Next American Century”

Senator Rubio: “This debt limit debate shouldn't be just about the debt limit. It should be a comprehensive opportunity to deal with the issues that confront our nation economically. So I want some sort of regulatory reform. I want some sort of tax reform. I'd like to see us tackle or at least begin to tackle how to save Medicare and Social Security, or at least Medicare in the starting. I'd like us to see a balanced budget amendment. I'd like to see a spending cap. So these are the kinds of things I'd like to see in a package. I have said from the beginning that this debt limit debate is a golden opportunity to begin to confront the serious issues that stand between us and the next American century, which is what we have an opportunity to build here.”

Recently, I introduced the Returned Exclusively For Unpaid National Debt (REFUND) Act, which would allow states to return unwanted federal funds to the federal Treasury in order to help pay down our staggering national debt.
This morning, Senator Rubio met with Reina Luisa Tamayo, the mother of a man who died during a hunger strike in Cuba. Reina spoke to Senator Rubio about the brutal reality of the life of a dissident in Cuba and the lack of freedom enjoyed by the people in that country. Reina's son, Orlando, was subjected to gruesome cruelty that resulted in his death in a jail in Holguin, Cuba. She shared his story in the hopes that greater awareness might bring change for the freedom-loving people of Cuba.
Consistent with his campaign pledge, Senator Rubio voted today to defund "czars" in the Obama Administration and to block the appointment of future czars without appropriate Senate confirmation, excluding the National Security Advisor. The amendment was offered to S.679, the Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011, by Senator David Vitter (R-LA). Unfortunately, it was blocked by Senate Democrats.

We're engaged now whether we like it or not, and the only acceptable outcome is the end of the anti-American dictatorship

The deepening confrontation between the White House and Congress over Libya is both counterproductive and unnecessary. Whatever one thinks about the constitutional questions surrounding the War Powers Resolution, or the wisdom of the original decision to intervene in Libya three months ago, the strategic reality is that our nation is now engaged in a fight. It will either end in the demise of a brutal anti-American dictator, or in his victory over us and our allies. The latter would be an extremely harmful outcome for the U.S.

For this reason, we have an unequivocal national interest in ensuring Moammar Gadhafi's regime is defeated as quickly as possible. To guarantee the mission's success, it is vital that the U.S. officially recognize the Transitional National Council, provide additional resources to support the council, and intensify strike operations to target the Gadhafi regime.

Yet rather than push the Obama administration to do what is necessary to bring this conflict to a successful conclusion, members of Congress are pushing to restrict our military campaign. If we withdraw from our air war over Libya, it will lengthen the conflict, increase its cost to American taxpayers, and raise doubts about U.S. leadership among friends and foes alike.

If the U.S. were to withdraw from operations against the regime in Tripoli, the coalition would quickly unravel. Gadhafi would emerge triumphant, even more dangerous and determined to seek his revenge through terrorism against the countries in NATO and the Arab League that tried and failed to overthrow him. U.S. withdrawal would also mean a bloodbath inside Libya, as Gadhafi unleashes unspeakable horrors against the Libyan people who sought their freedom. And it would have ripple effects across the Middle East: Pro-democracy movements from Iran to Syria would conclude that the U.S. had abandoned them, and dictators would be emboldened.

American disengagement would also inflict irreparable damage on the NATO alliance, a pillar of U.S. security in which we have a vital national interest. Having walked out on our European allies in the middle of a battle, we can expect them to do the same to us in Afghanistan.

Some may claim the current congressional proposals to curtail operations in Libya are largely symbolic. Since the proposals are unlikely to become law, their backers insist they are simply intended to "send a message" to the White House.

The problem is that these measures also send a message to Gadhafi and those around him. That message? The coalition is breaking and his regime might yet persevere. Although we know this is not the intent of our colleagues' actions, it risks being their effect.

There is a better way forward. For those on Capitol Hill who think the president requires congressional authorization to continue operations in Libya, there is a simple solution: Congress can and should pass a resolution explicitly backing these activities. It is precisely for this reason that we support a Senate resolution, put forward by Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.), to do this.

We share the frustration of those who argue that the Obama administration has not done an adequate job making a public case for our intervention and its objectives. Instead of denying we are engaged in "hostilities" (we are) or that the aim of our military operations is "regime change" (it is), the White House owes Congress and the American people a better explanation of why Libya is in our national security interest and why we and our allies must win the fight there. Here, too, however, our job in Congress is to push the administration to do a better job explaining our war effort in Libya—not to undermine or weaken it. Members of Congress owe the White House the time and space to make that case.

The cruel irony is that these congressional efforts take place just as the tide in Libya appears to be turning against Gadhafi. In recent weeks, the moderate, pro-American opposition in Benghazi has succeeded in expanding the territory under its control, breaking the siege laid by regime forces on Misrata, the country's third largest city. At the same time, the Gadhafi regime has been shaken by further defections and collapsing international support.

At this critical hour, both our values and our interests demand that we stand fast. Rather than abandoning the cause of freedom in Libya and throwing a lifeline to a vicious dictator—one who has American blood on his hands—we should push toward the only acceptable outcome: the removal of the Gadhafi regime and, with it, the opportunity for the Libyan people to build a free and democratic society.

Mr. Lieberman is an Independent Democratic senator from Connecticut. Mr. Rubio is a Republican senator from Florida. You can also read the op-ed here.

Today, Senator Rubio signed a letter to President Obama expressing his serious concerns about the agreement signed between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas, a terrorist group known to target attacks on innocent civilians and to support the destruction of Israel. Senator Rubio, along with 15 other U.S. Senators, notes that no U.S. assistance can legally go to the PA unless it abides by three basic principles: rejection of terrorism, recognition of Israel’s right to exist, and adherence to all previously-made agreements. Hamas continues to reject these requirements. As recently as last month, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh stated, "our plan does not involve negotiations with Israel or recognizing it."
Every day that politicians delay action on these important issues, Americans feel the pain. And to be sure, growing the economy and cutting our debt won't be easy. It requires a sense of urgency that is in short supply in Washington. But we must find a way.
Support is steadily growing for Senator Rubio's Returned Exclusively For Unpaid National Debt (REFUND) Act, which would allow states to identify and return unwanted federal funds to the federal Treasury in order to help pay down the national debt. Twenty-six other senators have now signed on as co-sponsors, along with two governors and the National Taxpayers Union and Citizens Against Government Waste.