CHRIS WALLACE: Senator Rubio, when Jeb Bush announced his candidacy for presidency, he said this: “There’s no passing off responsibility when you’re a governor, no blending into the legislative crowd.”
Could you please address Governor Bush across the stage here, and explain to him why you, someone who has never held executive office, are better prepared to be president than he is, a man who you say did a great job running your state of Florida for eight years.
MARCO RUBIO: Well, thank you for the question, Chris, and it’s great to be here tonight. Let me begin by saying this: I’m not new to the political process; I was making a contribution as the speaker of the third largest and most diverse state in the country well before I even got into the Senate.
I would add to that that this election cannot be a resume competition. It’s important to be qualified, but if this election is a resume competition, then Hillary Clinton’s gonna be the next president, because she’s been in office and in government longer than anybody else running here tonight.
Here’s what this election better be about: This election better be about the future, not the past. It better be about the issues our nation and the world is facing today, not simply the issues we once faced.
This country is facing an economy that has been radically transformed. You know, the largest retailer in the country and the world today, Amazon, doesn’t even own a single store? And these changes have been disruptive. They have changed people’s lives. The jobs that once sustained our middle class, they either don’t pay enough or they are gone, and we need someone that understands that as our nominee.
If I’m our nominee, how is Hillary Clinton gonna lecture me about living paycheck to paycheck? I was raised paycheck to paycheck. How is she — how is she gonna lecture me — how is she gonna lecture me about student loans? I owed over $100,000 just four years ago.
If I’m our nominee, we will be the party of the future.
WALLACE: All right, well, Senator Rubio, let me see if I can do better with you. Is it as simple as our leaders are stupid, their leaders are smart, and all of these illegals coming over are criminals?
RUBIO: Let me set the record straight on a couple of things. The first is, the evidence is now clear that the majority of people coming across the border are not from Mexico. They’re coming from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras. Those countries are the source of the people that are now coming in its majority.
I also believe we need a fence. The problem is if El Chapo builds a tunnel under the fence, we have to be able to deal with that too. And that’s why you need an e-verify system and you need an entry-exit tracking system and all sorts of other things to prevent illegal immigration. But I agree with what Governor Kasich just said. People are frustrated. This is the most generous country in the world when it comes to immigration. There are a million people a year who legally immigrate to the United States, and people feel like we’re being taken advantage of. We feel like despite our generosity, we’re being taken advantage of.
And let me tell you who never gets talked about in these debates. The people that call my office, who have been waiting for 15 years to come to the United States. And they’ve paid their fees, and they hired a lawyer, and they can’t get in. And they’re wondering, maybe they should come illegally.
And so these are important issues, and we should address it. It’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed, and otherwise we’re going to keep talking about this for the next 30 years, like we have for the last 30 years.
BAIER: Senator Rubio, why is Governor Bush wrong on Common Core?
RUBIO: Well, first off, I too believe in curriculum reform. It is critically important in the 21st Century. We do need curriculum reform. And it should happen at the state and local level. That is where educational policy belongs, because if a parent is unhappy with what their child is being taught in school, they can go to that local school board or their state legislature, or their governor and get it changed.
Here’s the problem with Common Core. The Department of Education, like every federal agency, will never be satisfied. They will not stop with it being a suggestion. They will turn it into a mandate.
In fact, what they will begin to say to local communities is, you will not get federal money unless do you things the way we want you to do it. And they will use Common Core or any other requirements that exists nationally to force it down the throats of our people in our states.
WALLACE: Senator Rubio, more than 3,000 people sent us questions about the economy and jobs on Facebook. And here is a video question from Tania Cioloko from Philadelphia. Here she is.
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QUESTION: Please describe one action you would do to make the economic environment more favorable for small businesses and entrepreneurs and anyone dreaming of opening their own business.
(CLOSE VIDEO CLIP)
RUBIO: That’s a great question.
WALLACE: Senator, how do you answer Tania?
RUBIO: That’s a great question. First of all, it begins by having leaders that recognize that the economy we live in today is dramatically different from the one we had five years ago. It’s an economy that now has placed us in global competition with dozens of other countries around the world.
Now, the big companies that have connections with Washington, they can affect policies to help them, but the small companies like the one Tania is talking about, they’re the ones that are struggling.
The first thing we need to do is we need to even out the tax code for small businesses so that we lower their tax rate to 25 percent, just as we need to lower it for all businesses.
We need to have a regulatory budget in America that limits the amount of regulations on our economy. We need to repeal and replace Obamacare and we need to improve higher education so that people can have access to the skills they need for 21st century jobs. And last but not least, we need to repeal Dodd-Frank. It is eviscerating small businesses and small banks.
20 — over 40 percent of small and mid-size banks that loan money to small businesses have been wiped out over the — since Dodd-Frank has passed. We need to repeal and replace Dodd-Frank. We need to make America fair again for all businesses, but especially those being run by small business owners.
KELLY: Senator Rubio, you favor a rape and incest exception to abortion bans. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York just said yesterday those exceptions are preposterous. He said they discriminate against an entire class of human beings. If you believe that life begins at conception, as you say you do, how do you justify ending a life just because it begins violently, through no fault of the baby?
RUBIO: Well, Megyn, first of all, I’m not sure that that’s a correct assessment of my record. I would go on to add that I believe all–
KELLY: You don’t favor a rape and incest exception?
RUBIO: I have never said that. And I have never advocated that. What I have advocated is that we pass law in this country that says all human life at every stage of its development is worthy of protection. In fact, I think that law already exists. It is called the Constitution of the United States.
And let me go further. I believe that every single human being is entitled to the protection of our laws, whether they can vote or not. Whether they can speak or not. Whether they can hire a lawyer or not. Whether they have a birth certificate or not. And I think future generations will look back at this history of our country and call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies who we never gave them a chance to live.
KELLY: Senator Rubio, I want to ask you the same question. But I do want to mention, a woman just came here to the stage and asked, what about the veterans? I want to hear more about what these candidates are going to do for our nation’s veterans. So I put the question to you about God and the veterans, which you may find to be related.
RUBIO: Well, first, let me say I think God has blessed us. He has blessed the Republican Party with some very good candidates. The Democrats can’t even find one.
RUBIO: And I believe God has blessed our country. This country has been extraordinarily blessed. And we have honored that blessing. And that’s why God has continued to bless us. And he has blessed us with young men and women willing to risk their lives and sometimes die in uniform for the safety and security of our people.
Unfortunately today we have a VA that does not do enough for them. I am proud that last year we helped change the law. We changed the law to give the power to the VA secretary the ability to fire any executive that isn’t doing their job. And it is outrageous they’ve only fired one person to date. When I’m president of the United States, we’re going to have a VA that cares more about our veterans than about the bureaucrats who work at the VA.
BAIER: Senator Marco Rubio. [closing remarks]
RUBIO: Thank you. You know, both of my parents were born into poor families on the island of Cuba. They came to America because it was the only place where people like them could have a chance. Here in this country, they never made it big, but the very purpose of their life was to give us the chance to do all the things they never could.
My father was a bartender. And the journey from the back of that bar to this stage tonight, to me, that is the essence of the American dream. It is what makes our nation different. And I’m running for president because I want that to still be possible for the people trying to do that now. I run for president because I believe that we can’t just save the American dream; we can expand it to reach more people and change more lives than ever before. And that’s why I’m asking for your vote. So we can make America greater than it has ever been. And make this century a new American century.