Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said that if he had been on Capitol Hill on Monday night, he would have voted – as he has several times in the past several weeks – along with most Senate Republicans to tie Department of Homeland Security funding to blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.
Rubio instead was in New Hampshire as he ramps up a likely campaign for President. He held a town hall-style meeting in Hollis and hosted a book signing of his “American Dreams” in Manchester. Tuesday morning, he spoke to the traditional “Politics and Eggs” breakfast at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
In an interview following his Tuesday appearance, Rubio said that his position on the DHS funding bill has been clear. He said he supported the Senate Republicans and said it is the Senate Democrats who have denied the House-passed bill the 60 votes needed to move the measure forward for debate.
“If they feel that the President was so justified in his actions,” Rubio said, “they should be willing, I believe, to have that debate.”
After last night’s vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled a plan that would separate DHS funding from the two immigration programs Obama initiated in November 2014 targeted at lifting a deportation threat against millions of undocumented immigrants. According to The Hill, McConnell would allow the continuation of a 2012 initiative targeting younger immigrants – Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
Rubio said that while he had not seen McConnell’s specific proposal, he believes DACA should not be abruptly ended. But he also said it must end at some point because an executive action cannot be the permanent policy of the country. He said if the McConnell plan is aimed a stopping only the latest executive order that extended DACA to adults, he could support it.
Rubio has had some conservatives question his conservative credentials since he supported the comprehensive immigration reform bill of 2013, but he defended his position in the interview.
“There are some people who feel passionately in their opposition to it and others are willing to hear us out,” he said. “My view is that we can’t pass the Senate (comprehensive) bill. We have fewer votes than we did a year ago, and now we have had the two executive actions. I still support moving forward on immigration reform, but the only way to do it is to prove to people that we are serious in enforcing our borders and our existing immigration laws.
“If we do that, then I believe the vast majority of Americans and Republicans will be reasonable with those who have been here over 10 years and haven’t violated any laws,” he said.
Some have questioned if Rubio, a 43-year-old first-term senator, is ready to be President. Rubio said that indeed he is.
“If (running for President) is the decision we make,” he said, “I will point out that not only did I serve in this seat for four years, but I have also been in the leadership of the legislature of the third-largest state in the country, including being Speaker of the House, and have also had experience in local government.
“We have other qualified individuals who may run that have lived longer than I have,” he said, “and some who have had one type of job versus another. But I feel quite confident that if I’m President of the United States, I can paint for the American people a vision of the future” and show an ability and to carry out that vision.
Rubio said that he has not yet made a final decision on whether to run for President, but he also said that if he does decide to run for President, he will run only for President, without also running for reelection to the U.S. Senate. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul has announced his intention to seek reelection to the Senate, while also moving toward a likely run for President.
And on foreign policy, Rubio, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, “I believe that ISIS needs to be defeated by ground troops. The ideal approach would be a coalition of local forces — Turks, Kurds, Iraqis, Syrian rebel forces, Jordanians” — and others. “You could put together a 120,000-person coalition with U.S. air and logistical support, but “it has to be defeated on the ground and the ideal situation is the local armies.”