Considered one of the luminaries among leaders of the Republican Party, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio spoke to an appreciative audience at the Ronald Reagan Dinner on Tuesday night.
About 500 guests gathered at Spartan Manor for the 2013 Pasco Republican Party fundraising event.
Rubio began with fond memories of his grandfather and other relatives who emigrated from Cuba. They imparted to Rubio during his boyhood how special America was in the world.
Rubio even poked some fun at himself. “Water is always good,” he said, after taking a sip from a glass of water strategically placed in the podium. The audience roared with laughter to the reference about his awkward pause to quench his thirst during his live response to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech.
“It’s broken,” Rubio continued about the U.S. immigration system. “It needs to be fixed.” Rubio is serving on a committee of eight senators developing possible reforms. Current policies date back to the 19th century, he said.
The estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country know the enforcement problems, Rubio said. The verification system for job applicants has lots of errors.
Many people here have illegally obtained valid visas, Rubio said. They simply stay long beyond the expiration date of the visas. “We don’t even know who they are,” he complained about poor tracking.
Rubio would spend billions of dollars beefing up border patrols. He favors a $2,000 fine for undocumented immigrants who want to stay here lawfully, plus fingerprinting and background checks. Anyone with a criminal record would face deportation. Others would pay an application fee for a work permit. After 10 years, they could then seek green cards.
“There will be no parade for me on this issue,” Rubio said about the controversy over immigration within the GOP.
The national debt and security risks are even more pressing issues facing the country, Rubio thinks.
The president pursues “disastrous” policies that might sound good in a college classroom, but don’t work in the real world, Rubio said.
“It’s morally wrong,” Rubio said about the national debt, approaching $17 trillion with no plan to repay it. Debt payments could leave “our children and grandchildren with an anchor around their necks,” he said.
Many American companies remain profitable, Rubio observed, but primarily by eliminating jobs and cutting costs. “They’re not investing in the future,” Rubio said.
“We are the party of growth,” Rubio said. The U.S. economy is growing at a much slower pace than the historic average of 4 percent a year, he emphasized.
“We don’t have to divide up a limited economy,” Rubio said. Government leaders “don’t have to pick winners and losers” that free enterprise should determine.
Republicans could do a better job of growing the economy and controlling spending, Rubio said. He advises repealing the Affordable Health Care Act of 2010, often called Obamacare.
“People are going to flip out” this fall when more changes from Obamacare go into effect, Rubio predicted.
Rubio also would pay down debt and reform the federal tax code.
Security risks have changed since Reagan was president, Rubio added. Reagan did not hesitate to denounce the Soviet Union as an evil empire, the junior senator said. Rubio believes Americans today should not hesitate to condemn extremists as evil, including terrorist bombers and North Korean leaders.
“What’s at stake here is the identity of our country and course of history,” Rubio concluded. “There’s still no other nation that can replace America.”
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor, warmed up the audience for Rubio. The major difference between the two political parties, Bilirakis said, is that Republicans think every day is the Fourth of July while Democrats think every day is April 15, the federal income tax filing deadline.