Rubio: Dems "deliberately" put off debt debate

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on CBS' "Face the Nation," July 17, 2011.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Sunday accused Democrats of purposefully ignoring the debt limit until the last minute, contending that they were trying to "force" Republicans into a "take-it-or-leave-it proposition."

In an appearance on CBS' "Face the Nation," Rubio compared the current debt limit negotiations to the recent standoff over the national budget - which in April almost led to a government shutdown - and said Democrats were manipulating the nation's precarious economic state as part of a strategy to win political points.

"This is not a surprise," Rubio told CBS' Bob Schieffer, of the debt limit deadline. "This didn't sneak up on us in the last couple of weeks here; we have known about this since the day I got to Washington.

"I think they deliberately let this thing go on because they were hoping to get to a last-minute situation so they could force us into a take-it-or-leave-it proposition, like they tried to do with the government shutdown earlier in the year, like they did with the stimulus package back in February when [President Obama] first took over," Rubio added.

"Up until very recently, the president was completely disengaged from this debt limit debate. And I do think that in the context of politics, there was a strategy to leave this until the last moment."

The Florida Senator, a rising Tea Party star who was elected to the Senate in the 2010 midterm elections, reiterated several times throughout the program that the debt limit was "an issue" but that the national debt itself was the "real problem."

"Certainly the debt limit is an issue but I think the bigger issue here is the debt," Rubio said.

The Obama administration and many economists, including Federal Reserve Board Chairman Ben Bernanke, have warned on multiple occasions that if the United States does not raise the amount it is legally allowed to borrow - now $14.3 trillion - by August 2, economic catastrophe will result.

Mr. Obama has for weeks been engaged directly with lawmakers to negotiate a deal, and has vowed to continue talks daily until the debate is settled. Prior to that, Vice President Joe Biden worked with a bipartisan team of Congressional members in efforts to hammer out a plan. But the two parties remain at odds over a number of issues, primarily the Republicans' refusal to agree to a deficit-reduction agreement that includes tax increases of any kind - and the Democrats' refusal to agree to a plan that doesn't.

Rubio, however, argued that the debt limit crisis is actually "the easiest part of the problem" facing lawmakers.

"It is one vote away from being solved," he said. "But if all we do is raise the debt limit and it is not accompanied by a credible solution to America's debt problem, we are in big trouble."

Rubio also said he would not vote for a proposed solution - recently floated by Mitch McConnell, the Senate Minority Leader - that would allow Republicans to avoid voting to raise the debt limit by essentially ceding authority to the president on the matter.

"The way the deal is currently structured right now, it gives the president the ability to raise the debt limit - but as [I] said already on the program, the debt limit is not really the problem here, the problem here is the debt," he said. "We are in big trouble and I don't believe [McConnell's] plan as it has been outlined to me is a credible solution to our debt problem."

Rubio reiterated his opposition to including tax increases in a deal, and contended that such increases not only "don't raise enough money, in fact they make it worse."

"Well, where are the concessions that the Republicans are willing to make?" Schieffer asked. "I heard the President just this week saying, yeah, he'd be willing to talk about means testing for people on Medicare. I don't hear any concessions from people on the other side. They just say no taxes, and that's their negotiating posture."

"Well, I don't think that's an accurate reflect -- I can only speak for myself," said Rubio. "I come from a state that has a massive number of retirees and I've stood before cameras like this and made it very clear that if we don't do something to save Medicare and Social Security they will bankrupt themselves and bankrupt our country, that those programs are unsustainable as they are currently structured, that we are going to lose those programs unless we do something to deal with it. I did that during the campaign and everybody told me I'd lost my mind in terms of talking about these issues.

"So I think as far as I am concerned and many like me, we have stepped up and talked about some of these issues that face America," he said. "Congressman Ryan has played a terrible political price early on this year for even offering a potential solution to some of these problems."

When asked if meaningful fiscal reform was possible without increasing revenues, including closing tax loopholes and eliminating deductions or subsidies, Rubio responded, "I think everybody in Washington would like to see more revenues. The question is, number one, how do you get more revenues? And number two, what do you do with it?

"I think more revenue should come from economic growth, and I think it should come from that because I think it's impossible for it to come from tax increases. None of the tax increases the President is proposing solves the problem. They don't raise enough money. In fact, they make it worse; they kill jobs.

"And by the way I don't trust Washington because they have shown time and again that any time they get their hands on their own money, they don't use it to pay or avoid debt; they use it to grow the government," Rubio said of tax hikes.

He did, however, support the idea of tax reform.

"There is a lot of support for tax reform in Washington and they're looking for some regulatory reform as well because they think these regulations that are being imposed make America a more unfriendly place to do business," Rubio told Schieffer. "When people tell you Communist China is a better place to do business than America, you know you're in trouble."