Face the Nation transcripts January 12, 2014: Rubio, Cummings, Wisniewski

(CBS News) Below is a transcript of "Face the Nation" on January 12, 2014, hosted by CBS News' Bob Schieffer. Guests include: Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., N.J. state assemblyman John Wisniewski, Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, Rana Foroohar, John Harris, Michael Gerson, Gerald Seib, and CBS News' Elizabeth Palmer.

BOB SCHIEFFER: Today on "Face the Nation" it's been a cold week, but politics turns things red hot.

CHRIS CHRISTIE, GOVERNOR OF NEW JERSEY: I am not a bully.

SCHIEFFER: New Jersey Governor Chris Christie got all tangled up in a scandal about who caused a traffic jam and former Defense Secretary Robert Gates was telling tales about his old boss, the president. We'll get the take of Florida Senator Marco Rubio and key Democrat Elijah Cummings. The White House had little to say about Gates' new book...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Read any good books lately?

SCHIEFFER: But privately aides were stunned at the former defense chief's harsh treatment of the high command. Does Gates have any regrets about the book?

ROBERT GATES, FRM. DEFENSE SECRETARY: No, I don't. I think that it's an honest account.

SCHIEFFER: And we'll talk to the New Jersey legislator heading up the investigation into bridgegate. Plus, in our "Face the Nation" flashback, Captain Sully Sullenburger joins us as we remember the miracle on the Hudson River. 60 years of news because this is "Face the Nation."

SCHIEFFER: And good morning again. Well, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio joins us from Miami. And senator, I want to just start with the story that's been getting so much attention over these past few days. And that is this mess that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie finds himself in. What is your reaction to this? Do you think he's still a viable candidate if he decides he does want to seek the Republican presidential nomination?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, good morning, thank you for having me on and happy New Year to you and those that are watching. You know, I think it would be a mistake for me and others like me to comment on this. First of all, we don't know all the facts. I think this is story that is still developing and we should reserve judgment. Beyond that I'm just not -- I don't know that much about it other than what I have seen reported in the press. So, I really don't have much to add other than that. And I wouldn't delve in to the political speculation as well, that would be a mistake.

SCHIEFFER: Have you -- have you decided one way or the other whether you're going to explore running for president?

RUBIO: You know, interestingly enough in 2016 I'm up for re- election if I want to choose to stay in the Senate. So, I'll have to make a decision around this time next year about whether I'm interested in running for another office or re-election or becoming a private citizen.

SCHIEFFER: Well, senator, as you well know this month marks the 50th anniversary of Lyndon Johnson declaring war on poverty. You made a big speech where you laid out some proposals on alleviating poverty this week. And I want to talk to you about the substance of those proposals. But first, I just want to ask you this, coming off an election where the Republican candidate lost and polls suggest many people say one of the reasons he did not do well is because he kind of wrote off lower income people, seemed indifferent to them. In light of that, why was it good politics to go to the Lyndon Johnson room in the U.S. Capitol and say that Lyndon Johnson's programs had been a failure, his programs to alleviate poverty.

RUBIO: Well, first of all let me say that I understand there was going to be a political analysis done of this issue, but for me I've been talking about this now better part of decade going back to my service in the Florida legislature. And the reason is I myself am but a generation removed from poverty and despair. And the reason why I live a better life is because my parents had the opportunity to come to a place where people like them had the opportunity to improve their lives. I think that is still true for the majority of Americans. But I think it would be wrong not to recognize that there are significant number of Americans that do not have equality of opportunity. That is not a political issue, that is something that threatens what makes us exceptional and different from the rest of the world. We need to address that. We need to address the fact that we have 40-some odd million people who feel trapped in poverty and do not feel like they have an equal opportunity to get ahead. And I don't view that as a partisan issue or an electoral one. I think it goes to the heart of it means to be America. As far as the war on poverty is concerned, its programs have utility they do help alleviate the consequences of poverty, but they don't help people to emerge from that poverty. And that's why I feel like the war on poverty has failed because it's incomplete. I think we have to take the next step, which is to help people trapped with inequality of opportunity to have the opportunity to build for themselves a better life. And that's what I hope we'll be able to accomplish.

SCHIEFFER: Well, you are not saying that program that Head Start were a failure because I took that from your speech that that is what you were saying, is that what you meant?

RUBIO: Well, that's not what my speech said. Actually, I think programs like Head Start are geared in the right direction in the sense that they're trying to get children educational opportunities as young as possible. I think where those programs can be completed and improved is that we create flexibility in them at the local level. So, I'm not saying we should dismantle the efforts, I'm saying that these efforts need to be reformed and I believe the best way to reform them is to turn the money and the influence over to the state and local level where I think you'll find the kinds of innovations that allow us to confront an issue that is complex, and quite frankly diverse. For example, rural poverty looks different than urban poverty. And there are different approaches to it.

SCHIEFFER: Well, that was one of the major proposals that you outlined, just turn these programs over to the states. But I tell you, the question I had when I heard you say that is I know some of the states when they had the opportunity opted out of federal programs like Medicaid, especially some where there were conservatives like yourself running the local government. What if these states opt out of these programs? Then what happens to these children and these people in poverty?

RUBIO: Well, here is the distinguishing factor. Under Obamacare, when you turn Medicaid over to the states what you're saying to them is the money will be available up front for the expansion for a few years, then the money will go away but you get stuck with the unfunded liability. I'm not saying we should do that. I'm actually saying that what we should do is take the existing federal funding that we use for some of these programs, and we're still working through which ones those should be, collapse them in to one central federal agency that would then transfer that money to fund innovative state programs that address the same issues. But it would be funded, it wouldn't be something where states are told you get the money for a few years then we'll back away. And it should be revenue neutral.

 

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