Miami, FL — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Jim Defede on CBS4’s Facing South Florida to discuss the unemployment benefit under the CARES Act, the Trump Administration’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, China’s role in covering up the virus, reopening schools in the fall, and more. See below for highlights and watch part 1 of the interview here and part 2 of the interview here.
“I don’t know yet for a couple of reasons. On the one hand, obviously, the unemployment insurance will remain. What we’re talking about is the additional $600 on top of it. On the one hand, you have a lot of people — employers and small businesses included — that are saying to us that they believe that this is acting as a disincentive to bring people back to work. And that’s what we’re hearing from them. On the other hand is the reality that there are a lot of people that will tell you, ‘We’d love to go back to work, but the place I work isn’t open yet, and I can’t pay my bills without it.’ So we got to work our way through it.
“So it’s a complicated issue, and I’m sure it’s one we’re going to have to deal with because the Democrats have insisted on an extension of it. So we can’t pass a bill without them voting for it. So it’ll be one of those things we have to work through to see if we can figure out a way to help the people who really need it, While at the same time making sure that we haven’t created a disincentive.
“I think most people would rather have a job that’s going to be there for months, not a benefit that’s going to be there for three or four. But at the same time, we can’t ignore employers saying to us that they’ve tried to rehire people and who are unwilling to come back as long as their benefit is there because they’re actually making more this way. Now, maybe the answer to that is to pay them more, which is what these businesses should consider. But we can’t ignore what we’re being told by some businesses out there.”
On the Trump Administration’s response to COVID-19:
“We’re a large country, a populous country, a very mobile country. We’re a state here in Florida, we have people that live here part of the year, or people that live here six months and a day for tax purposes and travel back and forth. We’re a state that invites people to come from all over the world and to visit us and they have family here that they visit as well.
“Bottom line, this is a respiratory virus. It spreads when human beings come in contact with each other, and there’s no way to make that zero, the caseload zero, until we have a vaccine.
“One area where I think we all could have improved on is to sort of come up with a concise message that everyone is putting out there as opposed to some of the conflicting messages. And I think everyone has shared blame in that. And that includes the CDC, who early on was discouraging people from using masks and on down from there, because I do think that having sort of a unified message across every level of government that isn’t partisan, would be helpful in terms of this response. Instead, we’ve seen a lot of these things turned into sort of a partisan fight or a political statement about whether you’re going to wear a mask or not wear a mask and that sort of thing.
“Should we have been able to address this early on in a concise way and set the tone for the country from the White House on down? Of course. By the same token, they took actions that showed seriousness, for example, the mobilization of the American private sector. You know, three months ago we were all worried about ventilators. Now we have extraordinary capacity. The Operation Warp Speed that the White House has been very supportive of, which leads us, I believe, at some point this fall, hopefully, with new therapeutic treatments that cut short the lifespan of this virusand unparalleled progress on a vaccine which some believe we could have in place by the later part of this year, maybe more than one. Even as we speak, they’re mass producing needles and syringes that they’re going to need to enable to deploy it. And all of this has been driven at the federal level. So I do think they deserve credit for those things, because those things are going to make a difference here, pretty soon hopefully.”
On the information provided by Dr. Fauci:
“I think he gives solid epidemiological advice… When we talk about the response to this virus, it’s not simply an epidemiological response, we also have to respond taking into account all the costs and the benefits of decisions that we’re making. From an epidemiological standpoint, you would shut down everything and everybody would be at home until this thing was at a 1 percent infection rate. But, from a social, economic, and political standpoint that’s unsustainable and it’s undoable. I think he is an important voice in terms of giving us solid medical and scientific advice that of course has to be balanced in these other things. But I don’t believe we have a Dr. Fauci problem. I think he’s an important voice at that table, and whose advice needs to be balanced with and taken into account alongside some other factors that are very important.”
On China’s role in covering up the coronavirus:
“What I have seen is evidence that, like most totalitarian regimes, they covered it up. They have a system of government in which you’re not encouraged to report bad news — very similar to Chernobyl in that sense. Local officials covered it up and then the Chinese covered it up. I have seen evidence that they, despite knowing this virus would spread, they bullied countries around the world not to implement travel bans, not to prevent Chinese citizens from traveling abroad, even if they could have the infection with them. These are all things they did do deliberately... There’s a lot we don’t know about what the Chinese did here because it’s not frankly the most transparent system of government in the world.”
On reopening schools in the fall:
“It can be done safely, of course it depends where you are — the conditions are different. There are counties in Florida, more than half our counties, that could probably open up schools in August and do so without the concerns we have here in South Florida… There are real, substantial costs to not opening schools…
“We also need to understand that before we cancel the next six months, that we’re going to hopefully be in a very different place three months from now, if we have those new therapeutics, if we can begin to do testing at home… if you ultimately have a vaccine…
“There are best practices that should be put in place, and you should put them in place before you open. I also think we should work hard to reopen, because the costs of not reopening are extraordinary. And that is particularly true for working families who have to be at work if they want to provide for themselves.”