POLITICS -- March 30, 2011 at 8:32 AM EDT
Rising Star Rubio Steps Into Spotlight
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., gave his first national TV interview Tuesday night. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
Sen. Marco Rubio, the rising Republican star from the Sunshine state, has decided to step more directly into the national spotlight that has been craving him since his arrival in the Capitol in January.
He recently sat down with ABC News' Jonathan Karl for his first national television interview as a U.S. senator. He, once again, ruled out a presidential run in 2012, but he was far less definitive about being the No. 2 on the GOP ticket next year.
On ABC's "Good Morning America" Wednesday, Sen. Rubio sounded a bit more definitive when talking to George Stephanopoulos.
"I'm not going to be the vice president in 2012," he said. (Of course, you can drive a Mack truck through that statement since nobody but Joe Biden is expected to be vice president in 2012.)
Also Wednesday, Rubio took to the op-ed pages of the Wall Street Journal to make clear his intention to vote against raising the debt limit.
Rubio adds some caveats to his likely "no" vote, which at the moment seem a bit more ambitious than Congress appears ready to tackle.
From the op-ed:
"I will vote to defeat an increase in the debt limit unless it is the last one we ever authorize and is accompanied by a 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."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has already had several members of his conference state their plan to vote against a debt limit increase. It begs the question: How many more Republicans can get a pass on this expected vote before the debate boils over?
Remember how the chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers put it back in January:
"If we get to the point where you've damaged the full faith and credit of the United States, that would be the first default in history caused purely by insanity," Austan Goolsbee told ABC's Jake Tapper.
As for the more immediate spending hurdle in Congress, the April 8 deadline for when government funding runs out continues to loom large. In response to a question about whether he could accept a compromise of around $30 billion in cuts, as Senate Democrats have offered, Sen. Rubio didn't rule it out.
"What it needs to be is to show that we're serious," he said. "I don't know if the number is the right number. I think it should be higher, quite frankly. I was happy with the bill that the House passed. I think that was a good step forward. It's still a small amount in comparison to the trillions of dollars of debt that this country has now taken on."
If the Tea Party darling -- if not quite from the Tea Party movement -- is willing to leave the door open to a negotiated settlement on the continuing resolution, perhaps Congress hasn't yet found itself at the edge of the cliff on the current spending battle.
OBAMA TALKS ENERGY
With Americans feeling more and more pain at the pump, President Obama is expected Wednesday to outline a strategy to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil by increasing domestic production of oil and gas while also expanding the use of alternative fuels and clean energy technology.
In a speech scheduled for 11:20 a.m. at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., the president is expected to put forward a target of cutting oil imports by one-third by 2025.
The push to achieve that goal will include a combination of new and previously announced steps. Among them: developing U.S. oil and gas resources while implementing necessary safety reforms in the aftermath of last year's Gulf oil spill; developing alternative sources of energy such as biofuels and natural gas; increasing the use of fuel efficient cars and trucks; and pursuing a Clean Energy Standard (CES) aimed at generating 80 percent of the country's electricity from clean energy sources by 2035.
Julie Pace of the Associated Press reports: "Officials said Obama also would reaffirm his support for nuclear power, which has come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks after an earthquake and tsunami in Japan severely damaged a nuclear power plant there. As a result of the crisis, U.S. government regulators are reviewing a wide range of issues potentially affecting the 104 U.S. nuclear power reactors, including safeguards to protect them against natural disasters and terrorist attacks."
The president previewed his energy speech Tuesday night in remarks at a Democratic National Committee fund-raiser in New York. "We still have a lot of work to do on energy," President Obama said, noting the last time gas prices were this high was during the 2008 presidential campaign.
According to the Energy Department, the average price for a gallon of gasoline is $3.60, up nearly 80 cents from a year ago and more than 50 cents since the beginning of the year.
The president said the country needed to break "the pattern of being shocked at high prices and then, as prices go down, being lulled into a trance." He argued the only way to do that was by dealing with energy in a comprehensive way.
Republicans on Capitol Hill contend the administration's aversion to domestic energy production is to blame for the rising fuel prices.
"Here we've got the administration looking for just about any excuse it can find to lock up our own energy sources here at home, even as it's applauding another country's efforts to grow its own economy and create jobs by tapping into its own energy sources," Sen. McConnell said Tuesday.
The Wall Street Journal's Laura Meckler reports that GOP lawmakers said Tuesday "they would introduce legislation requiring the administration to sell more offshore leases and to issue drilling permits within a set time frame."
There are two new sets of poll numbers out Wednesday morning, neither of which is going to bring smiles to the faces at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
"Americans have grown increasingly less likely to view President Obama as a strong and decisive leader since he took office. Roughly half now believe this aptly describes, him compared with 60% a year ago."
And if you focus in on the all-important independent voters, 49 percent say President Obama is a strong and decisive leader compared to 56 percent of independents who said that one year ago. So, you can probably expect to hear much more of the "failed leadership" rhetoric coming from the Republicans on Capitol Hill and those traipsing through small towns in Iowa.
The silver lining for Team Obama, of course, is that a slim, if declining, majority of voters continue to find him to be a strong leader who shares their values and understands their problems.
The other rough set of poll numbers for the White House comes courtesy of Quinnipiac University:
"American voters disapprove 48 - 42 percent of the job President Barack Obama is doing and say 50 - 41 percent he does not deserve to be re-elected in 2012, both all-time lows....
"This compares to a 46 - 46 percent job approval rating and a 45 - 47 percent split on the President's re-election in a March 3 survey."
The Middle East and Libya drag seems to have washed away the lame duck/post-Tucson shooting sheen.
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