Florida Senator Marco Rubio said he wouldn’t accept revenue increases as part of a deficit deal that also cut spending to prevent a U.S. fiscal crisis, saying it’s a “different time” than when former President George H.W. Bush embraced such an agreement in 1990.
The first-term Republican, a prospect to be Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate, said he favors a broad agreement to simplify and bring more certainty to the tax code, and argued that it ultimately would bring additional revenue to the government. He ruled out including revenue increases in the plan, saying that would frustrate economic growth.
“I don’t have a moral objection to tax increases; I think they have a negative impact on growth, which is what our No. 1 objective should be,” Rubio said today at a Bloomberg Breakfast with reporters in Washington.
That’s a break with former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, who earlier this week said the fiscal deal his father cut that coupled tax increases sought by Democrats with spending cuts favored by Republicans was good for the country. Rubio said the “good part” about the agreement was it showed the government could arrive at a solution to the fiscal challenges.
After a recession that lasted from July 1990 to March 1991, the U.S. economy expanded for 10 years, according to the National Bureau of Economic Research.
‘Level of Certainty’
“What led to the economic growth was the fact that you had the government respond to an issue and create a level of certainty, and some would argue that the growth would have been even greater if a tax increase wouldn’t have been a part of it,” Rubio said.
To reach a deal with Democrats who controlled the Senate and House in 1990, the first President Bush “had to accept those tax increases, and I think we live in a different time today,” Rubio said.
His comments were the latest evidence of intransigence among Republicans toward raising any taxes as part of a deficit deal, which coupled with Democrats’ refusal to accept certain spending and entitlement cuts is creating conditions for the latest partisan fiscal clash at year’s end.
Either President Barack Obama or Romney, the presumed Republican nominee, will eventually be faced with the challenge of bridging the gap.
Rubio, who has been working on an immigration measure to allow certain students and military service members brought to the U.S. illegally as children to obtain non-immigrant visas and stay in the country and work legally, said he believes his bill will gain “significant Republican support in the Senate.”
The legislation is designed to be a Republican answer to a bill favored by Obama, Democrats and a handful of Republicans that would grant such young people a path to citizenship -- something that Romney has called amnesty and opposes.
“Nobody’s really boxed in on it unless they choose to be,” Rubio said of his measure, which he said has yet to be completed.
Republicans are lagging badly with Hispanic voters according to recent polls after a presidential primary battle in which Romney, 65, attacked his opponents for what he characterized as an overly permissive approach to dealing with illegal immigrants.
Rubio, 41, said members of his party “have to start putting ideas on the table with regards to what we’re for.”
Alluding to the debates during the primary season, he said: “Maybe we missed an opportunity early on to talk about what we were for.”
Still, Rubio added, “We should not de-legitimize the very real anxiety out there with illegal immigration.”
Rubio, a Cuban-American who some Republicans say could boost Romney’s standing among Hispanic voters as a running mate, declined to comment on the vice presidential speculation. He said he wanted to be “respectful” of the process.
A member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio said the U.S. should take a more forceful role in dealing with the violence in Syria. He said the Obama administration should help with creation of a “safe zone” in Turkey -- and eventually in Syria -- where those waging the 15-month-long revolt against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad can better organize themselves.
He also said the U.S. should consider providing communication and logistical equipment to the opposition “that they would need in order to become a more effective fighting force.”
The lack of a “cohesive opposition” to Assad creates “ideal conditions” for Islamic extremists to become more involved in the conflict, Rubio said. So the U.S. needs to identify Assad opponents “we can work with” and help them “become cohesive so that there isn’t any space for these radicals to operate,” he said.
Rubio said he wasn’t yet prepared to support the use of U.S. air power to establish a no-fly zone to thwart the efforts of Assad’s forces to crush the government’s opposition. “I need to look at that a little bit more closely,” he said.