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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio on the government 'slowdown' and the politics that run through it

4

October

To Sen. Marco Rubio it's not a shutdown, it's a "slowdown."

That's how he characterized the Washington malaise in a floor speech today. "This is not the best way to run the most important government in the most important country in the world," the Florida Republican said, adding the standoff would hurt all politicians.

Rubio faces a delicate moment, to be sure. He was part of the Ted Cruz, Mike Lee contingent that pushed hard on a fight over Obamacare many Republicans said was unwise and would only hurt the GOP. His speech today attempts to cast the finger-pointing as what's really wrong with Washington.

"I think it's wrong that those of us who stand on principle, who believe, for example, that Obamacare is going to badly damage our country, I think it's wrong that we have a congressman from my home state that compares us to the Taliban. We have a spokesman for the White House that says we're like people with bombs strapped to our chest. I think that's wrong. I think it's wrong too, by the way, that the president has used the megaphone of the presidency not to bring Americans together, but he's used the megaphone to deepen these divisions. Mr. President, you're not the chairman of the Democratic Party. ... Act like the president of the United States."

That very criticism -- that Obama should rise above party politics -- is what Democrats say Speaker John Boeher must do, to lead the whole House, not a hard-line faction within the GOP.

Full transcript:

Senator Rubio: First, let me also start by thanking the men and women of the Capitol Police Department and the District of Columbia and the Secret Service. It reminds us that they’re the thin blue line that stands between us and danger. I think it’s a moment to extend our thanks to all law enforcement and first responders around the country who on a daily basis are that thin blue line as well. So we are also grateful for what do you for us and how you keep us safe.

I wanted to talk, of course, about this week. It's been an interesting week, to say the least, beyond the events of yesterday. You turn on the cable news, and it features these countdown clocks leading up to the government slowdown. And now in the aftermath of it, as well, you see these countdowns about how many days we've been into this thing. Look there’s no doubt this impasse that we’re at is a problem for the country. This is not the best way to run the most important government in the most important country in the world. The people around here — who all they do is focus on politics, who for them every day is Election Day —  what they're focused on is who's winning, who's going to get the blame, who's this going to help in the next election. I suppose that has a place in politics and in the governing process. Let me answer to you who's going to get the blame. We all are. Every single one of us in the House, the Senate. The entire federal government is going to get the blame. Let me tell you why. Because there are people who woke up this morning, they didn't get enough sleep last night. Maybe they were up late helping their kids with their homework. They guzzled a bunch of coffee and forced themselves to work. They didn’t want to go to work. They were tired. But they had to. And they're going to go to work today. They’re going to get home and go through all that again. And they’re just wondering, why can't you guys do that? Why can't do you your job? And I think that's a very valid frustration that people have with this process and with us here today.

I'm not happy about some of the things we've seen this week or over the last couple weeks. I think it's very unfortunate some of the rhetoric that's been used around here, both in this chamber and in the public domain. But with each day that goes by, what I'm more and more worried about may not be what everybody else is so worried about, or at least what too many people around here aren’t worried about. Look, I think it's wrong that those of us who stand on principle — who believe, for example that ObamaCare is going to badly damage our economy — I think it's wrong that we have a Congressman from my home state that compares us to the Taliban. We have a spokesperson for the White House that says we're like people with bombs strapped to our chests. I think that's wrong. I think it's wrong too, by the way, that the President has used the megaphone to the presidency, not to bring Americans together, but he's used the megaphone to deepen these divisions. You know, Mr. President, you're not the chairman of the Democratic Party. You are the President of the United States. Act like the President of the United States. Rise above that stuff. Your job is to bring this nation together. I know people are going to say things about you, you don't like. It comes with the territory. You've got to rise above that and I hope that he will.

But those are not the things that concern me the most. What I'm most worried about is that this country faces a very serious crisis and we are running out of time to fix it. Now, there's no doubt this government slowdown is not a good thing, but it's not the crisis I'm referring to. This issue about the debt limit, hitting the debt limit, that's a problem. But that's not the most serious crisis we face either. The single, most important crisis we face in this country is that for millions of Americans, the promise of the American Dream is literally slipping away through their fingers. And with all the focus around here on whatever the crisis of the day may be, I fear that we are simply not spending enough time focused on that reality.

It reminds me of this story that I know. A few years ago, a friend of mine in Florida was on a twin-engine airplane. They were flying from one part of the state to another. At some point during that flight, a fire broke out in the cockpit. Now, that fire is a problem. But the bigger problem was that both of the pilots started to put out the fire and no one was flying the plane. And within a few seconds the plane began to plunge and it lost hundreds of feet in altitude. Now, luckily they figured it out quickly and were able to correct themselves. But they were so focused on the fire in the cockpit that they weren't flying the plane. And luckily they realized in time that if they didn't start flying that plane, that fire was going to be pretty insignificant a few seconds from then. So this government slowdown, it is a problem, yes. We have this upcoming debt limit thing, and that's a problem, yes. But the fire in our cockpit and the one we need to address is the erosion of the American Dream. Now, you think that the slowdown in government is problematic. Well, that's a vote away from being solved. All you have to do is take a vote in either chamber and we can solve that problem.

Let me tell when you the slowdown in government is going to be a big problem: When it slows down because this government no longer has enough money to pay its bills. And if we keep doing what we’re doing now, that’s going to happen. You think this debt ceiling situation is a problem? Well that’s one vote away from being solved. Let me tell you when it is going to be a real problem: When no one wants to buy our debt anymore because they don't think we can pay them back. You think all this division and dysfunction in Washington is bad for our economy? Yeah, but you know what's worse? A tax code that kills jobs. Regulations that on a daily basis are killing jobs. A national debt that's killing jobs. By the way, one of the greatest destroyers of jobs in America today is ObamaCare. That's why we're so passionate about it. The American Dream that people throw around so loosely as a term — the American Dream is basically the notion that no matter where you start out in life, no matter how many obstacles you have to overcome, you have the God-given right to through hard work and perseverance achieve a better life for yourself and leave your children better off than yourself. But it’s being eroded on a daily basis. And not nearly enough attention is being paid to that. I don't see any countdown clocks on cable television about the American Dream. The most dangerous thing happening in Washington today is that everyone is so busy fighting about the problems before us today that there doesn't seem to be enough focus on the crisis we're headed to here pretty soon: That we are on the verge of losing the American Dream. I say that because to one extent or another we are all guilty of misplacing that focus. 

So my speech here today is as much as anything a reminder to me of why I wanted to serve here to begin with. The reason I wanted to serve here is because I know — I don't think — I know that America is special. And I know this partially because I was raised by and around people that know what life is like in places other than America. In places other than America, you can only go as far as your parents went. You are trapped. Whatever your family did, that's the only thing you are allowed to do by those societies. But we’ve been different, and I've seen it with my own eyes. Both in my neighborhood and in my family, I have seen people who came here with little education and no connections, through hard work and perseverance achieve a better life, achieve a meaningful life and leave their kids off better than themselves. And I also see how every single day there are millions of people out there now that are trying to achieve the same thing and they're finding it harder and harder to do that. And we're on the verge of losing that. And if we lose that, every day that that's eroded, so, too, is the exceptionalism of this country.

People love to use that term, "an exceptional nation." I believe it’s exceptional. But it is exceptional primarily because of the American Dream. Many countries in the world have powerful militaries. Every country in the world has rich people and big companies. What makes us different is that here if you are willing to work hard, if you have a really good idea, you can be rewarded for it with a better life. And that’s eroding. And if we lose that, we lose what makes us special and different, and no one seems to be fighting enough about that. All these other issues, the only reason why they matter is because they relate to the American Dream. The reason why the debt really matters is because it undermines the American Dream. The reason why our tax code that's broken matters is because it undermines the American Dream. The reason why I'm so passionate about ObamaCare is because it is undermining, for millions of people, the ability to achieve the American Dream.

The reason I ran for office is because as a country, we're headed in the wrong direction because we are losing the American Dream. We still have time to fix this. But we don't have all century. We don't even have all decade. We have got to begin to take these issues seriously or we will be known as the first generation of Americans who lost the American Dream and left their children worse off than ourselves. We still have time to refocus ourselves on this. With all this noise about politics and who gets the blame and who is responsible for what, I hope that we can use these challenges before us as a catalyst to begin to focus on these issues for why they matter: They matter because they're hurting people. And it's hurting people who are trying to achieve a better life.

If we do that, if we focus on that and if we solve the problems before us with an eye towards that, then I think we have the real opportunity to do what every generation of Americans before us has done: To leave our children better off than ourselves, and to leave them what our parents left for us — the single-greatest nation in the history of the world.

[Last modified: Friday, October 4, 2013 4:56pm]

    

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