Marco Rubio ended his week-long media offensive with an appearance on Fox News Sunday, where in addition to weighing in on the situation in Libya, he was questioned extensively about his op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled, "Why I Won't Vote to Raise the Debt Level," which he said would be the case unless major reforms were enacted with the budget.
Rubio said that his vote (estimated to come sometime between April 15 and May 31) will be predicated on an accompanying 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." Such a take on the budget led the Los Angeles Times earlier this week to write that Rubio had found his "inner tea partier."
On Fox News Sunday, host Chris Wallace tried to pin him down as to whether he really would vote to shut down the government if he alone could had the power to do so, vs. taking a provocative bold stance that makes him look tough, without the responsibility that vote entails.
WALLACE: But, Senator, I guess the question I'm asking is it's easy to say "I'm going to vote against increasing the debt limit" when you know that a majority of the other senators are going to do it. If you were the deciding vote, would you still vote to put the country in default if you don't get all of your conditions met?
RUBIO: I don't want everyone to vote to put this country in default, and it's exactly what we're doing. If we all we do is extend the debt limit and do not start dealing with the fundamental fact that the American government spends money it doesn't have, that it borrows $4 billion a day, that almost 41 cents out of every dollar it expends is money we are borrowing, half of it from overseas and most of that from China — anyone who votes to continue to do that is voting for default eventually, sooner rather than later, quite frankly.
WALLACE: One last question in this regard. Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has talked about the possibility of the country going into default and says this: "Failure to pay interest on the debt would create an enormous crisis in the financial markets."
Experts say it would make it more expensive for the U.S. to borrow. It would raise interest rates for home mortgages and consumer loans.
House Speaker John Boehner says it would "send our economy in a tail spin."
So, let me ask my question again. If you were the deciding vote, if you were the 51st vote, are you saying that if your conditions aren't met, you would vote to put the country into default?
RUBIO: I would never want to see our country in default, but that's exactly where the guys are taking us because they refuse to make reform.
WALLACE: That — yes or no, sir?
RUBIO: If you simply extend the debt limit — well, I'm not voting for simply raising the debt limit, unless — as I outlined in my op-ed — it's the last time we do it and it's coupled with meaningful reforms that put us on a path toward fiscal sanity. Otherwise, all you are doing is guaranteeing default.
So, these guys that are going around saying let's just simply raise the debt limit, we'll deal with these issues later — these issues have to be dealt with now. Every year that goes by, it becomes harder and harder to deal with these issues. And, quite frankly, we get closer to the day when those horrible things that Bernanke is talking about are going to happen.
On Libya, Rubio has been as hawkish as John McCain and Joe Lieberman in wishing the U.S. had become involved earlier in trying to bring down Muammar Qaddafi's government. He was asked about his bashing of the Obama administration for not being more out front in this military action:
WALLACE: Senator, you criticize President Obama for what you call phony multilateralism and say that the U.S. should lead. But does that mean we shouldn't share command and cost with NATO? Does that mean that we should spearhead a third U.S. war against Arab country or in an Arab country?
RUBIO: Well, first of all, Chris, we are NATO. With all due respect to the our French and British allies who are — shown a lot of courage and bravery and foresight in this endeavor, without the United States, NATO doesn't function and can't work. Absolutely, we want to work alongside them and we're pleased that they've actually taken the position they've taken in this regard.
But ultimately, the United States has capabilities that France and Britain do not have; particularly, militarily. And without those capabilities engaged in this endeavor, it will be impossible to accomplish the goal of this mission, which is to prevent genocide and the massacre of civilians because as long as Qaddafi is in power, that's what we're facing.
WALLACE: But I guess the question I have is: in a sense, isn't it smart to try to fold in to NATO and to fold in to the French taking the lead? And for instance, we're going to pull out our combat aircraft this week. Isn't that a good thing, not a bad thing?
RUBIO: I think it's a good thing we have allies in this endeavor. We should always try to have allies in this endeavor. We have them in Afghanistan. We had them in Iraq. We certainly had them in the first Gulf War in the early '90s. That's always the ideal scenario.
But we have to recognize that we have unique capabilities, as Secretary Clinton and others have said, that our allies do not have. And so, American leadership is essential to missions like this being successful.
No word on what national television program Rubio will appear on next, but today he said he would not be on any 2012 GOP presidential ticket. He told Nightline this week that he absolutely would not run for president, but left the door open to possibly being a vice presidential nominee.