Marco Rubio arrived in Congress less than a year ago, but the voice of Florida’s junior senator is already being heard loud and clear in the growing push for smaller government and the fight to defend American values.
Rubio jumped into the U.S. Senate race in May 2009 following the resignation of Republican Mel Martinez. Despite an early double-digit deficit in the race for the Republican nomination, he outlasted sitting Gov. Charlie Crist and won the Senate seat by 19 points, defeating both Democrat Kendrick Meek and Crist, who re-entered the race as an independent.
Sen. Rubio is best known for giving voice to the emerging Tea Party movement in Florida, but his impact is unmistakable on a national scale. Just two months after entering the Senate, he put down a marker on the national-debt discussion that would come to dominate our national attention four months later:
I will vote to defeat an increase in the debt limit unless it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a plan for fundamental tax reform, an overhaul of our regulatory structure, a cut to discretionary spending, a balanced-budget amendment, and reforms to save Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Rubio’s parents fled Cuba in 1959, a life-altering experience that taught them the value of American citizenship — a value that they deeply imprinted on their son. “It is hard to be apolitical when you are raised by exiles,” says the father of four.
In a sit-down interview in his Washington office with TheDC’s Ginni Thomas, Sen. Rubio discusses what surprises him most about being new in Washington, his answer to the debt-ceiling crisis, what’s great about America, his evaluation of President Obama’s performance, and how he integrates his religious faith into today’s American life.
You gave your first major speech recently on the Senate floor, about the “Miracle of America.” Tell us what you meant.
“The miracle is that we are one of the first societies in human history to recognize that our rights don’t come from government; they come from God.”
What grade would you give President Obama?
“I’m going to give him an F, and I’m not going to do it with any joy in my heart. Ultimately, I love my country more than I love the Republican Party. And I want the president to succeed because I want America to succeed. But he’s not succeeding, and this is not personal.”
Looking at the country right now, what gives you hope?
“[The Tea Party Movement] is a grassroots movement of everyday people who will hold their leaders and the people they help elect accountable. I think that’s an extraordinarily positive development in American politics, and [it] brings us closer to the essence of the republic that our founders dreamt of.”
What’s your biggest surprise as a new senator in Washington?
“The first is that I haven’t met a single senator that I don’t like personally. My second is that I’m really concerned about the lack of urgency around here with regards to the issues that we face.”