CNN’s Jake Tapper sat down with presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to discuss his upcoming campaign and the latest on the Iran nuclear deal. The full interview aired on CNN’s The Lead with Jake Tapper, 4-5 p.m. E.T.
Please credit all usage to CNN’s Jake Tapper
The full transcript of the interview is available after the jump.
Transcript from Full Interview:
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
RUBIO: A leader from yesterday began a campaign for president by promising to take us back to yesterday. Yesterday is over.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I’m Jake Tapper.
Our politics lead today: Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, says he is the presidential candidate for the future, unlike Hillary Clinton.
Many pundits are finding it difficult to refrain from comparing the senator to someone else from recent elections past, a certain other 40-something first-term senator new to the national stage with a lovely family and soaring oratory and an inspirational personal story.
I, of course, would never make that mistake, but here was Senator Marco Rubio last night.
RUBIO: And so my father stood behind a small, portable bar in the back of a room for all those years so that tonight I could stand behind this podium in front of this room and this nation.
That journey from behind that bar to behind this podium, that’s the essence of the American dream.
TAPPER: And here now, newly declared Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio of Florida.
Senator, thanks so much for being here.
RUBIO: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: It’s good to have you here.
RUBIO: I’m glad to be here.
TAPPER: So, you came up to Washington today to participate in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Iran, specifically a bill to get some sort of congressional oversight.
TAPPER: When your colleague Senator Tom Cotton, whose letter to the mullahs you signed a few weeks ago, was on the show last, he said that surgical strikes against Iranian nuclear sites would be preferable to this deal.
Do you agree?
RUBIO: Well, first of all, I think that military action should only be taken when it’s the best option available.
And we would hope that there would be leadership shift in Iran at some point that would make them realize that either you’re going to have an economy, a modern economy and a prosperous one, or you’re going to have a — or a nuclear weapon, but you can’t have both.
And at that point, if they don’t realize that, then certainly military strikes is something that are on the table, I’m not sure something you would announce.
TAPPER: So, you would be pushing for greater sanctions before anything like that?
RUBIO: Absolutely, because I think, first of all, the sanctions, I think, are what allow us the opportunity — have brought us to this point.
And not only are the sanctions important in terms of preventing the nuclear capability. It also has an impact on their ability to sponsor terrorism all over the world. But, look, there may come a point where military action is necessary because anything is preferable to Iran having a nuclear capability akin to what you find in North Korea.
I wouldn’t say that is something we would do tomorrow and it is certainly something we would not announce. But it needs to clear that that is an option available to us, if all else fails.
TAPPER: Let’s talk about your presidential candidacy.
What do you say to people out there, Republican voters shopping around who say, I like him, but I really think we need a president with executive experience?
RUBIO: Well, a couple points. I do have a record that extends before I even got here to Washington. I have been here now almost four-and-a-half years.
But, before that, I was a state legislator in Florida for nine years. I was in leadership almost the entire time, including being speaker of the House, where I ran the Florida House, both as an institution and from a policy perspective.
I have also served in local government, so I have the unique experience of having been a local, state and federal officeholder. I have also dedicated significant amount of time here on foreign policy and on the Intelligence Committee issues that we just today spent an hour reading intelligence briefings and catching up on, since we haven’t been in D.C. in a week. We haven’t had access to that.
So, the point is, I think there are real distinctions between, for example, others that have run in the past who were senators and where I am today.
TAPPER: Since being elected to the Senate in 2010, you have been the primary sponsor on 219 items, bills, amendment, resolutions. None of them have been signed into law.
How can you vote — how can you convince American voters, Republican voters that you can govern, effectively, given that legislative record?
RUBIO: You could actually say that about almost any senator that served with me over the last four years.
When Harry Reid was the majority leader, the Senate virtually did nothing. In fact, we have already taken more votes this year than we did all of the last two years, maybe all of the last three years, and the point being that Harry Reid basically brought the Senate to a standstill.
Not only could you not get bills voted on. You couldn’t even amendment voted on. And, in fact, there were Democrats running for reelection last time that couldn’t even point to their legislation they had passed when they were in the majority. We hope that is going to change now. And it’s begun to change under Senator McConnell.
I would point out the fact that, for example, the Veterans Accountability Act, which is a bill we filed, that allowed the VA to fire senior executives in the VA that weren’t doing their job, that was a stand-alone bill that we got worked into as part of being on the conference that negotiated the final deal. We got that put into the VA bill.
That’s an example of a legislative achievement that happened and was signed by the president, but as part of a larger bill. But it was a bill we filed along with Jeff Miller of Florida.
TAPPER: One bill that you are very well known for is a bill that passed the Senate, but did not become law because it didn’t get through the House, and that was comprehensive immigration reform.
I know you have said that you don’t think it should be comprehensive in the future. It should be piecemeal. You need to convince voters.
RUBIO: I don’t think it can pass as a comprehensive piece of legislation.
TAPPER: That’s the issue?
RUBIO: Yes. And I have evidence. We tried it.
RUBIO: And, in fact, if you recall during that time, I warned during that time, as that process was ongoing, that if we didn’t do more on the security part of it, I thought it would have no chance of passage in the House.
But now I’m — I think we have proven, we have learned that, in fact, a massive piece of legislation, especially on something like immigration, just really has no realistic chance of passing.
TAPPER: There are a lot of conservative Republicans out there who when I asked on Twitter what should I ask him, they said does he still support amnesty? And that is something you are going to hear when you go into Iowa and New Hampshire, South Carolina.
RUBIO: Well, here’s the process I support. And I have outlined this both in my book and multiple times that I have been asked.
I think the first thing we have to do before anything else, because it’s the only way you are going to be able to do anything else, is we have to prove, not tell, prove to the American people that future illegal immigration is under control.
That means securing that one sector in the border that remains insecure. That means an entry/exit tracking system to prevent visa overstays. That means an E-Verify system.
If we did those things, then I believe we will have the support politically and policy-wise to do two very important things, first, modernize our legal immigration system, make it a merit-based system, as opposed to simply a family-based system. And then we’re going to have to deal with the fact that we have 12 million people in this country who are here illegally, who have been here longer than a decade or more.
RUBIO: And I have outlined the process for dealing with that. And I think it’s well-established one.
They come forward, they pay a fine, they start paying taxes, they get a work permit. And that’s all they can have for a substantial period of time. And after they have completed this probationary period, they would be allowed to apply for permanent residency, just like anybody else would.
TAPPER: A lot of Republican voters say, that’s amnesty.
RUBIO: Well, I think it’s amnesty in their mind if the law is not being enforced.
What people’s main complaint was about all this is, you are going to go ahead and legalize 10 or 12 million people, but they’re never going to do the enforcement and you’re going to have another 10 or 12 million people here in another 10 years.
And I think that’s a legitimate concern, especially given what’s happened with the migratory crisis last summer.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about another issue. You are casting yourself as a candidate of a new generation.
But there is an issue where you are very out of step with younger voters, even younger Republican voters, according to a Pew poll; 61 percent of Republican voters under the age of 30, I believe, support same-sex marriage.
On that issue, same-sex marriage, Senator, you’re the candidate of yesterday.
RUBIO: Well, a couple points. Number one, that is an issue that will largely be determined at the state level, since marriage laws have always been defined by the states.
I’m — not, for example, ever supported a federal constitutional amendment to define marriage because I believe states define marriage in their laws. And if in fact people feel that way, as that poll says, then they can petition a state legislature to change the law.
But the second point I would make is, I don’t — I think there’s still a significant number of Americans that believe that the definition of marriage should be that of one man and one woman, as it has been for thousands of years. And that continues…
TAPPER: But they are a minority in…
RUBIO: Well, they’re a large minority. In essence, there are still parts of this country that believe that way.
But irrespective of it, we’re in a republic. If you want to change the marriage laws of your state, go to your state legislature and get your legislators to change it. I don’t believe the court system is the appropriate way to do it. And I don’t believe Washington and the Supreme Court is the appropriate way to do that.
Beyond it, I would say that when I talk about the future, what I’m really pointing to is not those issues necessarily, but the fact that we are living through a massive transition out into a post-industrial era, where millions of people are being left behind because America is no longer globally competitive as it once was and because they do not have the skills required to succeed in the 21st century.
And we have political leaders in this town and across the country, they’re still wedded to an outdated 20th century higher education model that no longer works.
TAPPER: I want to ask you about a man that has been described as your mentor, Jeb Bush. Is that a fair description, your mentor?
RUBIO: Yes. Sure. Yes.
TAPPER: So, you have said that you’re not running against Jeb Bush. He a friend. You’re just simply competing for the same job.
I’m wondering what that means in practical terms. Does that mean that your campaign won’t do opposition research on Jeb Bush, that you won’t run any negative ads against Jeb Bush? What’s the difference between that and running against, say, Rand Paul?
RUBIO: No, what it means, there are six or seven other people in this race who I believe have a legitimate chance to be a nominee as well.
We’re blessed as Republicans to have six or seven people running that are going to be credible candidates. The Democrats can barely come up with one. And we’re going to have a robust competition in which voters in the Republican primary are going to be able to hear from all of us and decide who they want not just to lead our party, but lead our country.
Nothing that’s going to happen over these next few months, I believe, will change my feelings towards Governor Bush as a person or what he’s done in the past to serve our country. I just honestly believe that I have a vision for America’s future and a plan to get us there. And I think that I can serve this country at this moment in its history better than anyone else who is running.
TAPPER: You know, I don’t get presidential candidates on my set very often.
So, what I’m going to do, if it’s OK with you, is, we’re going to change the show. We’re going to do a little impromptu changing of the show. We’re going to take a quick break, pay some bills, come back with more of Senator Marco Rubio.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. We’re back with Senator Marco Rubio, who announced just yesterday his bid to seek this nation’s highest office.
Senator, thanks for going overtime with us. You mentioned when I talked about the candidate of tomorrow, you mentioned that you meant that more in terms of economic issues than you did in terms of social issues. Do you think it’s a mistake, do you think it’s a trap by people in the media to ask Republicans about social issues?
RUBIO: No, no, these are important issues. People want to know what you feel and think about them. I think they’re very important issues to a lot of people in this country. And I recognize that we’re a country that has people on both sides of these issues that feel very strongly about it. I owe people where I stand – I will tell you where I stand.
But ultimately – and I’m not saying these are not important issues to have the highest office in the land opine on or give opinions on. But ultimately, I want all Americans to succeed economically, independent of what they may feel like on a social issue. I want all Americans to be more prosperous, to be able to leave their children better off than themselves, to have better jobs, to have businesses that are successful. I want America to be globally competitive. So we’re a big enough country and a free enough country to debate these issues robustly, and work through them as we have always done as a society. But we still have to grow economically and be secure militarily.
TAPPER: You’re a man that has two daughters. I have a daughter myself, and I know that having a daughter opened my eyes to a lot of things that probably I never would have realized if I didn’t have a daughter. Hillary Clinton, her historical candidacy, this historic nature of it, is going to be compelling for a lot of women —
TAPPER: — Republican women, too, who like the idea of, well, 43 men have been president, now one woman. Do you think that that’s going to make it more difficult for you to win the women’s vote? And do you think that the Republican Party should have a woman on the ticket no matter what?
RUBIO: Well, let me just tell you this on a couple of points. I think ultimately when it comes to being president, vice president or anything else, you want the best people there because that’s going to have an impact on the future of our country and on your future, irrespective of your age, your ethnicity, your gender. I would never assume every Hispanic in America has to vote for me because I’m Hispanic, because my last name is Rubio. I have to earn their support. That may intrigue them about my candidacy, but ultimately I have to prove I’m the right person for the job. And I think the same will be true for her or anyone else who is running.
I think the important point to make is that we live in a country so vibrant that in fact you have a diverse field that includes a very legitimate candidate for president who’s a woman. You have two Latinos running in the Republican side of the equation. If Dr. Carson gets in, an African-American is running. So, in essence, I think that’s a – not just a testament to the vibrancy of our country, but true to our heritage is a nation where people from everywhere have been able to achieve extraordinary things.
TAPPER: Do you pledge to support the Republican nominee whoever it is, even if it is somebody that you disagree with so strongly on foreign issues, like Senator Rand Paul. Just as an observation, I think you probably agree with Hillary Clinton on more matters pertaining to foreign policy than you do with rand Paul.
RUBIO: We’ll have plenty of time for that sort of comparison. Let me JUST say I am confident that the Republican nominee, whoever that may be — and I expect it to be me and I hope it will be me, and I’ll work hard to make it me. But I’m confident the Republican nominee is someone who will believe that America needs to be engaged globally and that the world is a safer and better place when America is engaged and exerting global influence.
I’m pretty confident that at the end of this process, our nominee will be someone like that, whether it’s because they change positions to adopt that view or that’s because who they really are.
TAPPER: Senator Marco Rubio, we will see you out there on the campaign trail.
RUBIO: We will. Thank you, Jake.
TAPPER: Thank you so much for coming by. We appreciate it.
RUBIO: Thank you.