Oct 22 2020
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Squawk Box on CNBC to discuss the prospect of passing a stimulus bill, big tech, and court-packing. See below for highlights and watch the full interview here.
“I think the fundamental challenge we face with it is the cost, the dollar figure. There are Republicans in the Senate that will not vote for a deal that goes $1.6, $1.8 trillion, I'm not happy about the cost associated with it. But I do think the cost of not doing something is potentially even higher, especially since some of that money that we're talking about in the 1.6 whatever number they arrive at is re-purposed money like the PPP money that was unused, so it's not new spending.
“In the end, I think we run the risk here of structural damage to components of our economy if we don't do something. I also think we haven't seen the worst yet from some cities and counties. I'm not talking about cities and counties that ran up big debts on their pension plans prior to the pandemic, but some of the things going on, for example, with local option taxes, that's money that's bonded against for infrastructure spending, they're going to have to pull funds out of a general revenue next year to backfill that if those bed taxes go down… We have some housing issues around the country as well.
“And look, the small business piece is really important… I have a meeting this morning with the Chair in the House and the Vice Chair in the House, along with Senator Cardin, my counterpart, we're going to talk about this. So I have more optimism that we're going to have a deal on stimulus, I don't know if it will be before the election, just simply because of the calendar, and some of the time constraints we face. But whether it's right now or early November, I wish it had been yesterday, I wish it had been three months ago, but we do need to do more.”
On Democrats’ usage of stimulus funds as political leverage:
“Three months ago their [the Democrats’] position was let's come up with something we know they'll never take because nothing will happen. The economy will get bad, the President will get blamed for it, and Republicans will lose elections. That was the attitude that Democratic leadership took.
”I think what happened in the interim is that rank and file members of the Democratic party started pressuring the Speaker because it's their districts, and the economy, and their homes that were being hurt. And so that's where she [Speaker Pelosi] kind of came out off that position. I still think she probably, and they probably, prefer a deal post-election, but even if it's pre-election, it will be too late to really have an impact on the economy.
“So, if we weren't in an election season, I still think that there would have been obstacles, but it certainly would have been easier...Look, I'm cautiously optimistic but we’ve already seen this thing take a lot of twists and turns. It's really unfortunate, especially for small businesses that are getting crushed out there and the jobs that are going to be lost because of this.”
On compromising for a stimulus package:
“I'm pretty open in order to pass something here, and I think we have to remind people of this all the time, the only way you pass a law here is you have to have it passed by a Democratic House, a Republican Senate where you still need Democratic votes and, signed by a Republican President, so no one is going to get everything they want here. And from my perspective, that means the bill on this is probably going to be higher than I want it to be, and I'm very uncomfortable with that. That said, I think the price of not doing something is higher.
“So as long as it's limited in some way. As long as it's not crazy, yes I'm willing to be flexible about it because I think it's that important. I think the damage to our economy is much greater than the benefit of not doing anything would ever be in terms of the debt so as I have said before, I'm willing to vote for things I'm not in favor of, in order to pass the things I think are essential and important for our country within reason.”
On funding for COVID-19 testing:
“We need point of care, rapid testing at this point or greater expansion and distribution of that. I get it, those aren't 100% accurate, but you will catch enough cases to prevent wider spread. I’m talking about the kind of tests you can administer, not just on a daily basis or nursing home or congregate living facility, but you could potentially use in schools, if somebody comes up symptomatic or whatever it might be, a teacher or somebody who works there, the ability to test them, give them peace of mind, and or send them home for a follow up PCR test is really critical.
“So I don’t think it’s just that we need money for testing, but the newer kinds of testing that give you quicker results simply because that will allow us to take action. That can prevent, instead of three people being infected, you could wind up with 15 people being infected.”
On big tech:
“Well, this is a new creature, right? I mean, our laws are written for an era in which news was a television station, a network, or a newspaper, and now news is consumed largely through an aggregator, be it a website that spreads it or what have you and posts it. So the fundamental question here is, is a tech company a site that basically hosts the news content produced by other people, or are they editors that decide what it is you and I can read and see and share with others. That's the fundamental question here.
“If they're going to be editors and publishers, then they need to be treated as such for purposes of liability. And I think the second thing that’s very concerning here is — and this is why free speech and all of these sorts of things is a such a difficult concept to grasp, but an important one — is today, I can argue I'm restricting access to disinformation or misinformation, but tomorrow that could be used to restrict access to inconvenient information, or something I claim is misinformation but actually is in the eye of beholder. And that becomes really problematic when it's about political speech, when it's about campaigns. So this is a very important issue and one we need to think through as a society and as a country.”
On court packing:
“I do think that we need some institutional stability. The one thing this country really needs now is to protect the stability of our institutions. The one thing that has allowed us to survive as a republic for [over 200] years is the stability of institutions. We’ve had good presidents, bad presidents, boring presidents. You know, we’ve had good members of Congress, bad ones, and everything in between. That's what you get when you elect human beings to political office. But what has allowed us to sustain throughout this is that the institutions are durable, and that is particularly important when it comes to the court.
“If we reach a point where every four years or every two years the party that wins doesn't like the outcomes coming from the Supreme Court, so they want to add new members to tip the balance — literally, we'll wind up with 25, 35 members of a court. We’ll have to build a new Supreme Court building. And not to mention we’ll look like a third world country. So we have to bring some stability to that.
“We’ve defined in the Constitution how many members of Congress there are, based on states and districts, we’ve defined how many senators there are, two for every state. I think it's important that we define. for purposes of stability, what the membership should be of the Supreme Court.”