Connect To Congress: Senator Marco Rubio on Gulf Coast veterans, Roy Moore allegations

Photo source: WEAR-TV

Florida Senator Marco Rubio joined us live in the WEAR-TV studio to discuss the pressing issues facing our country right now.

Gulf Coast Veteran Protests

Sue Straughn: "When you talk about treating them like the heroes like they are and paying respect to our veterans, yesterday we had veterans that were protesting in front of the VA in Biloxi. Their concern, with this Gulf Coast region in particular, there are not enough doctors, nurses - I think there are some 200 plus unfilled positions. What do you say to those veterans? What is the state of the VA right now?"

Sen. Rubio: "The state of the VA, it's archaic, it's constructive for a different era, it hasn't really adjusted to the modern area. One of the great things that's happening in the battlefield is people are surviving injuries that didn't use to survive, but that brings with it longterm needs that aren't being met. Particularly those after5 91 and beyond and so that has to change.

We need to bring accountability, I worked for three years and we finally passed my law - the VA Accountability Act - which has allowed us to get rid of bad people, we gotta bring in good people - so that's been an issue. The other is choice. We have to have a good choice program where a veteran, if they can't get the access to the care they need in a facility nearby, they have the opportunity to go somewhere else and get that care outside of the VA system, and that's a program, quite frankly, that past VAs have not been very friendly towards, in terms of making it work. There's an effort now to pass a VA Choice bill that creates real choice and gives them more options if they can't get that treatment at the VA."

Sue Straughn: "Do you have a time table? When will we see true measurable change?"

Sen. Rubio: "The VA Accountability Bill passed and we've already seen people fired - people that were doing horrible things. Let me just say this, the overwhelming majority of the people at the VA are phenomenal. They do great work, they're understaffed, their information technology, their information systems are outdated. The sheer volume of work that's being put on them and then you have these bad employees that hold back the organization, so this is not a criticism of the great people that are there, but we need to do more. So VA Accountability passed we gotta get the Choice bill passed or reauthorized and make sure that it works well and continue to focus on this. The timetable is as soon as possible."

Sexual Misconduct Allegations Against Alabama Republican Senate Candidate Roy Moore

Sue Straughn: "There are a number of people, even very high up in the Republican party - the President himself weighing in suggesting that if these allegations are true, Moore needs to step aside.

Sen. Rubio: "I agree. I think it's a disqualifying thing if it's true and even slightly true, any portion it. Obviously he's denied it vehemently, and only he knows the truth about this, at least from the perspective of the accusations. Obviously it's a well sourced article, has multiple people, lays out a very compelling accusation. He's gonna have to deal with this. I don't know Mr. Moore, Judge Moore, I don't know him very well, met him one time for like 10 seconds recently when he was in Washington, so I have no way of opining on it other than to say that if any portion of that story is true, he should be disqualified in my view."

President Trump in Asia

Sue Straughn: "The President is on his 11 day Asia trip. He's doing this at a time when tensions are very high in that region, as you know. What is your assessment of the lay of the land there?"

Sen. Rubio: "It's difficult. The 21st Century will be defined by the relationship between the United States and China. It is my view that China seeks to replace the United States as the sole global super power - not work with us, replace us - and part of that is manifesting now in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of - they're trying to create tributary states out of these other countries that are around them. So, U.S. needs to stay engaged economically, we need to live up to our defense commitments to Japan, South Korea, create new alliances, potentially even with Vietnam - which doesn't want to be a tributary state to China. Work more closely with India, which seeks that cooperation between us - and also with Japan, by the way. But, we are hopeful, on the same token that the people of China want a different future, but the Communist Party there - quite frankly, they cheat and they steal our secrets every single day - it's not a fair compeititon. The President talked about that when it comes to trade, that's gotta be addressed. We cannot continue to have a relationship with China, in which they steal our intellectual property, they block our companies, but they flood our market with their companies, that can't continue."

Sue Straughn: "How do we level that playing field?"

Sen. Rubio: "That's violating existing laws of trade. If that's not gonna work, and they're not gonna agree to it, then we need to take counter measures against it. Not necessarily tariffs, but we need to protect our companies. We should not be allowing companies, by the way, American companies going over to China and basically allowing to rollover to what the Chinese are demanding. They're censoring our books, they're censoring our movies, they're blocking Facebook and Twitter and other applications. And then beyond it, they subsidize their companies to compete against ours, then they come here with that money and then they come here with that money, and then they buy up American companies and steal the secrets and the products those companies are innovating. So, I want us to have a good relationship with China, but it has to be one that's fair, and I think the President is addressing that in this trip."

North Korea: "We cannot live in a world where a lunatic like that possesses a long-range missile capable of striking the United States"

Sue Straughn: "Let's talk about North Korea. Again, a lot of people if you're living in this country, you're concerned. You're concerned about what you're hearing coming out of the region there, there is debate over whether diplomacy can work or should continue to be tried, do we use military action, if so, what and when?"

Sen. Rubio: "It's a dangerous situation but it's pretty simple to understand. Kim Jong-un will not enter into serious negotiations with the United States until he has acquired the capability of hitting Washington and New York - the East Coast - a missile that can reach there with a nuclear warhead. Once he gets that, then he thinks he's in a higher, better negotiating position. That can't happen, not just because of giving us an advantage, we cannot live in a world where a lunatic like that possesses a long-range missile capable of striking the United States. I don't want us to have a war. I think a war with North Korea would be a terrible, terrible outcome. The only thing worse than that would be a nuclear North Korea with the ability to strike the entire continental United States. I think the President and the Administration have made clear that that will not happen. I think North Korea knows that and now it's up to them to decide what they will seek to do."

U.S. Military Readiness

Sue Straughn: "When you have a situation like that anywhere in the world, of course it broaches the issue of military readiness, the United States military readiness. How ready are we?"

Sen. Rubio: "We're the most powerful fighting force in human history, and yet despite that we have serious problems in readiness because of this crazy, ridiculous sequester, in which we cut back our defense spending, it has done nothing to balance our budget because defense spending is not the cause of our national debt. We see airmen, we see sailors cut back some training, cut back some equipment, also placing rotational strings on deployment - people are being deployed more often and longer because of sequester - that has to be reversed. This is not a game. Our national security and defense of this nation is the number one obligation of the federal government and if it doesn't fulfill that, none of these other things matter. Economics don't matter if you can't protect your country, we gotta do that.

Puerto Rico Relief Efforts

Sue Straughn: "Some two months plus after the hurricane, they had a setback with electricity yesterday. Many people would say that if this were happening in the mainland of the United States that there would be tremendous public outcry, unending. What do we need to be doing in Puerto Rico and what is your position?"

Sen. Rubio: "We need to view Puerto Rico beyond the storm. Puerto Rico had preexisting issues and it's one of the problems they're having now, they didn't have the infrastructure to respond to the storm the way a state would. I think there's also logistical challenges. The outcome and what's happened is unacceptable and there's plenty of blame to go around. The Federal response took longer than what I wanted it to, I thought the Army Corp should have been there sooner and more heavily engaged but I also think the government of Puerto Rico, itself needs to reexamine - and it's electrical company - needs to be reexamined in terms of how they conducted business. They also share some of the responsibility in what's gone wrong there. But my number one objective is to ensure that we not just help Puerto Rico rebuild, but rebuild in a way that's stronger than ever. We cannot have American citizens in a U.S. territory living in a place with no electricity, no safe running water, and people seeking to get out as if it's a country somewhere else. It's not. It's part of the United States and these are American citizens."

Sue Straughn: "When you talk a lot of people seeking to get out, estimates of 140,000 have already relocated to Florida, the governor declaring a state of emergency to try to deal with the influx of new residents, if you would. Is Florida ready? And what things do we need to better do?

Sen. Rubio: "Yeah, Florida is ready because many of these people are coming because their family is here. If 140,000 people moved here from Oklahoma we wouldn't be alarmed by it. It's not bad for Florida, but it is bad for Puerto Rico. You cannot rebuild a place if noone's there. If you don't have the doctors, the teachers, the business community. How are you going to rebuild and have a better future if you're losing people and your population? So, this was already happening - not at that rate, obviously but it's not that it's bad for Florida, but it is bad for Puerto Rico to lose that many people, especially if it's permanent."

Future Presidential Run?

Sue Straughn: "One of our viewers, Jenny Shinn, wanted us to ask you, 'would you consider another run for President?'"

Sen. Rubio: "Well, we have a president, and I think he intends to run for reelection. I don't know what the future holds, I don't know what God's plan is, I know I have a job now and I'm gonna do this job the best I can. I don't know if I'll reach this goal, but my goal is to go down the as the best senator Florida has ever had, and if I achieve that, I imagine may be other opportunities to to continue in the Senate or do something different or, you know, become a private citizen and contribute in different ways. So, I'm really focused on what's before me now, tomorrow's gonna come, it'll be here soon enough, but today's here right now and that's what I'm focused on and we'll see what the future holds. But I'm always looking for ways to serve this country but right now, the best place to do that - and the right place to do that - is in the United States Senate and that's what I look forward to continue to do."

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