Presidential hopeful and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., indicated that a government shutdown battle over Planned Parenthood is likely next month -- but he did not commit a full crusade on it.
Democrats on Monday filibustered a Republican bill to remove all government funding from Planned Parenthood, after a series of undercover videos accused the organization of illegally selling fetal tissue.
The next step for Republicans could come in demanding the funding be stripped in the next spending bill before the Sept. 30 deadline to fund the government. When asked about a possible shutdown in an interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News, Rubio flipped it back on the Democrats:
"It’s not us who’s going to shut down the government. It’s the Democrats. In essence, the choice is theirs to make. Are they saying that they’re willing to shut down the government over funding Planned Parenthood?
"If this was the NRA, would the press be saying the Democrats are willing to shut down the government to defund the NRA? No, they would be saying Republicans are trying to defund, shut down the government. This is the Democrats threatening to shut down the government unless we use taxpayer money for a specific organization. That's outrageous."
But when pressed on whether he could support any spending bill that does fund Planned Parenthood, Rubio dodged: "I'm not getting into what we will or won’t do."
Rubio was also asked about Donald Trump's threat to run as a third-party candidate. His reply:
"We want to nominate a Republican, and I want to be in a party where nine months from now all of us on that stage are going to be back in Cleveland supporting one of us who’s the nominee. And so you should ask Mr. Trump about that. He can answer for it.
"I will say this: I do believe that this message that America is losing is not accurate. We most certainly have challenges in this country, but there’s no nation I would trade places with."
Indeed Rubio's well-received speech at the RedState Gathering on Friday was decidedly sunnier than his rivals. He did not spend much time talking about the sins of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, rather talking about challenges to be overcome.
For example, in the speech's most interesting section, he talked about higher education reform:
"[We need] flexible programs that allow people who have to work full-time to acquire the learning they need for a better paying job. The private sector’s already doing this. We need to do more of it as a nation by opening up financial aid outside of the monopoly of higher education to allow people to learn in alternative ways.
"You know why that’s not possible? Because higher education today is a monopoly. What it means is you have to be an accredited college or university in order to award degrees. Well guess what accredits the colleges and universities: The colleges and universities.
"And so since they accredit themselves, they don’t want any competition. And since they don’t have any competition, they can charge you whatever they want. So you increase Pell Grants, they increase tuition. They make more loans available, they charge you more. And what do that use that money for? To build pools, to build gyms, to build workout facilities."
But Rubio, a rabid football fan, knows his SEC audience. He had this qualifier: "I'm not saying that traditional higher education doesn’t have a place. After all, where are we going to get college football?"
Rubio quick hits
Biggest applause line: "They say I don’t come from privilege. I say, 'Oh yes I do.' I was raised by two parents who were married to each other, loved us, and raised us in a strong and stable home. That’s an extraordinary advantage."
Sharpest jab at a Republican: Rubio talked about his first run for U.S. Senate against then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist and when he went to visit the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "They said 'Not only are you going to lose, but you’re going to get hurt in the process.' For weeks, I was checking to make sure no one loosened the tires."
Sharpest jab at a Democrat: Nada.
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