Marco Rubio defends Paul Ryan's plan to dismantle Medicare

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SEN. RUBIO: Well, we're here to make a difference in public policy. Now, here's the thing about compromise. Compromise is a dirty word, and it shouldn't be. But it's become one because in Washington compromise always seems to be a deal, and that's what it's meant to people over the last 20 years. A deal that people say is a solution but doesn't really solve anything. So I think if the compromise is between two folks that are both trying to accomplish the same goal, just have different ideas about how to do it, that's not a negative thing.

MR. GREGORY: Well, then you voted against the compromise on, on the budget deal in the, in the lame duck session. You apparently didn't think that was a good deal, that that was a fair compromise. Did the Republican leadership fail you?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, they—let me tell you this. First of all, I respect the work that Speaker Boehner put in it. He was in a tough spot. But let's remind ourselves of the last election cycle and what was it about. It was about the fact that we are dealing with major issues in our country, big issues that deserve big solutions. Now, if people like me who were elected in this wave of 2010 make a difference, if we don't stand up and say that, who is going to stand up and say that? If folks like me that were elected in 2010 don't come here and say, "These big issues, these big problems deserve big solutions," no one's going to say that.

MR. GREGORY: Right. But you still have to compromise. I mean, you say he was in a tough spot. He was in a tough spot because you either have the votes or you don't. So you send a statement or you actually compromise and get things done. Which is what Senator Rubio believes in?

SEN. RUBIO: Well, I—you want to have a compromise, the compromise better do something. My point is these problems have to be solved. To say we just compromised, be, "Oh, we compromised for the sake of a compromise," you know, that alone may get you some short-term lauds in the media, but in the long term it didn't accomplish anything. We have to have solutions.

Rubio has also come out in support of Wisconsin Representative Paul Ryan's budget plan for 2012, which includes dismantling the Medicare program by 2022 for those 55 and younger, and replacing it with a voucher style program that will reduce the federal government's involvement and potentially have seniors paying a lot more for their health care. Rubio responded to David Gregory's concerns that it's a political loser for the GOP by saying that unless somebody has a different (and presumably better) plan, they ought to essentially shut up:

SEN. RUBIO: If people don't like the Ryan plan, including Democrats in the Senate, then introduce your own plan. Where is your plan?

MR. GREGORY: You'd vote on the Ryan plan. Because it's going to be up for a vote in the Senate, you're proposing.

SEN. RUBIO: I'll vote for any plan that saves the...


SEN. RUBIO: That's right.

MR. GREGORY: And look at some of the reaction in terms of how people feel about cutting spending for Medicare. We'll put it on the screen. Cutting Medicare spending, 78 percent oppose. Medicaid spending, 69 percent oppose. You're not operating in a political vacuum here, you well know that. You are a senator from Florida with a lot of older voters. Are you prepared to stand up to them and say, "Sorry, folks, we've got to do this"?

SEN. RUBIO: You know...

MR. GREGORY: Because a lot of Republicans think this is, this is handing something to the Democrats that'll be potent against Republicans down the line.

SEN. RUBIO: Well, two things. The Ryan plan doesn't cut Medicare. Actually, it increases funding in it. And the only people in this town that have voted to cut Medicare are the people that supported Obamacare, that cut half a trillion dollars over the next 10 years out of Medicare and is using it to fund a healthcare experiment somewhere outside of Medicare. The only people in this town that have voted to cut Medicare spending are the people who voted in favor of Obamacare. That's a fact. And so the truth is the people...

MR. GREGORY: But you don't deny that, that if you introduce a voucher system into Medicare, that there's going to be a set amount of dollars that seniors have to go into the private marketplace. That is not Medicare as we now have it.

SEN. RUBIO: Well, Medicare as we now have it goes bankrupt. That's not a—Medicare as we now have it is not an option.

Gregory ended the interview as almost a tribute to the man he succeeded in 2008, the late Tim Russert, by insisting that Rubio once again state what he already has many times in recent months - that he has no intention of running for president or vice president next year.

MR. GREGORY: All right. What about your political future? You said no run in 2012, you wouldn't be on a VP ticket, people of Florida are depending on you. If your party comes to you and says, "Look, you can focus on Florida, but in the fall of next year, we really need you on the ticket if we're going to carry Florida." Are you saying that there's no way you'll consider it or do it?

SEN. RUBIO: Yeah, I won't consider it. I don't want to be the vice president of the United States. I want to be a senator, and I want to be a senator from Florida. I think in the United States Senate I can have an impact on these major issues that we're facing. You know, I'm saddened that the—that Americans are so pessimistic about the future. They shouldn't be. There's nothing wrong with the American people. We are the same people that built here the greatest society in all of human history. We just need some government policies that allow the American people to once again do that.

MR. GREGORY: So under no circumstances would you serve on a ticket in 2012?

SEN. RUBIO: No, I'm not going to be on a ticket in 2012.

MR. GREGORY: Under no circumstances?

SEN. RUBIO: Under no circumstances.

Like most Republicans (and not a few Democrats), Marco Rubio has already gone on the record that he will not support an increase for the federal debt limit unless it's linked to a fundamental set of initiatives to cut spending and reform the big entitlement programs that represent the bulk of federal government spending.

Four months into his first term as a U.S. Senator, Marco Rubio reiterated that stance in his first appearance since being elected on NBC's Meet The Press, still considered the most prestigious of the Sunday morning political talk shows. He also said that when it comes to "compromising" with Democrats, that's become a dirty word in the nation's capital, but it shouldn't be.

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