The Christian Post invited all the presidential candidates of both major parties to answer the same set of 12 questions. Here are Marco Rubio's answers.
1. Why do you want to be president and what does your personal faith have to do with your decision?
My faith has everything to do with my decision to run for President — it is the single greatest influence in my life. My faith teaches me that the most important job I will ever have is that of a husband and a father. It teaches me that I have an obligation to care for the less fortunate. And now, my faith compels me to do everything in my power to make sure that we preserve the principles that have made this country great.
I am also running for President because while America doesn't owe me anything, I have a debt to America I will never fully repay. America changed the very history of my family. It provided me with opportunities that would have been unthinkable anywhere else in the world.
There has never been a country like America. A country founded on the principle that our rights come from God, not from government. A country in which we are all equal in the eyes of our Creator, and in which every human life, at every stage of life, is sacred. But we did not become an exceptional nation by accident. For over two centuries, each generation before us did what they needed to do to make this the greatest nation on earth. And now, at a time when too many people are wondering what will come of our long-held values and whether the American Dream is still possible, the time has come for our generation to do its part.
2. What is marriage, and what should be the government's interest and role in marriage?
The institution of marriage is the union of one man and one woman. It is imperative that our laws are based on a true understanding of marriage because marriage is the foundation of family life and of society.
You cannot have a strong nation without strong people, and you cannot have strong people without strong values. Values are taught and instilled by the family. Government can never replace that. Under President Obama, the government has undermined the family. That must change.
3. When a U.S. government law or action unintentionally infringes upon the religious freedom of one or some of its citizens, should the government accommodate those beliefs by providing exemptions to that law or action, and, if so, what would be your recommended standard for providing the exemption?
Religious freedom is a fundamental human right enshrined in the Constitution and long defended by Americans from both political parties. Laws are required to respect religious conscience and to accommodate religious believers living out the teaching of their faith. President Obama has, unfortunately, broken that bipartisan consensus, but I will restore it.
But faith deserves more than "accommodation" and "respect." It is something to be celebrated. From the founding to abolitionism to the civil rights movement to the pro-life movement, religious people have been witnesses for moral truth. Faith has shaped the soul of America. And as president I will support the right of our people not just to hold traditional views, but to exercise them, to express them.
4. What actions should the president take, and should urge the international community to take, to aid and protect those who are persecuted for their faith around the world?
Today, there is far too little attention paid to the millions of people around the world who are being persecuted simply because of their faith. As Americans we enjoy many blessings, and with those blessings comes a duty to stand on the side of the oppressed. That's why I have worked with leaders in the faith community for the successful re-authorization of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, an independent body tasked with monitoring religious freedom abroad and making recommendations to the president and Congress. Unfortunately, this President and State Department have failed to display the moral clarity necessary to fight religious persecution around the world.
The next President can — and should — do more to protect those persecuted for following their faith. I will responsibly focus the resources provided through of the United States' humanitarian efforts to support and protect those fleeing religious persecution. I will be unafraid to send a clear message to the world by meeting with embattled groups, like Middle Eastern Christians and the Falun Gong. And I will speak out for the fundamental right of religious freedom.
5. Under what conditions should current unauthorized immigrants in the United States be allowed to make restitution for their crime and apply for legal status or citizenship? How would you secure the border and the workplace?
We are a sovereign country, with a right to have immigration laws and to enforce them. And when I am President we will. I know first-hand that enforcing our immigration laws is not anti-immigrant.
Sanctuary cities will lose their federal funding, and criminal aliens will be immediately deported. We will secure the border, and hire 20,000 new Border Patrol agents. We will finish all 700 miles of the Border wall and add over $4 billion dollars of cameras and sensors to detect unlawful crossings. We will have a mandatory E-Verify system for employers. And we will implement an entry-exit tracking system to stop visa overstays.
We will start with one simple principle: If we can't be 100% certain who you are or why you are coming, you're not getting into the country. And when I am president, there will be no amnesty.
Once we've secured the border, we must modernize our legal immigration system. Legal immigration should be based on what you can contribute economically, not whether you have a relative living here.
After the border is proven to be secure and legal immigration has been updated, I believe the American people will be reasonable about how to address the more than twelve million people currently here illegally.
6. Should the federal government devote resources to encouraging all states to adopt the same set of education standards, such as Common Core?
No. Common Core has been used by the Obama administration to turn the Department of Education into a national school board. This effort to coerce states into adhering to national curriculum standards is not the best way to help our children attain the best education, and it must be stopped.
Instead, we should focus on empowering states, local communities, and most importantly parents. After all, if parents are unhappy with a local or state school board's decisions, they can go to their board and get it changed. No such option exists if decisions are being made about education in Washington.
As president I will prohibit federal mandates on curriculum or standards for states and local educational agencies, and on my first day in office I will issue an executive order directing federal agencies to stop any and all activity related to implementing or enforcing Common Core.
7. A growing consensus of liberals and conservatives agree that economic mobility in the United States has decreased and is a serious problem. (See here and here.) What can the federal government do to improve economic mobility for Americans struggling in the bottom half of the income distribution?
After spending trillions of dollars and using the same flawed policies for decades, big government has failed to alleviate poverty. Our approach must change. We must institute 21st Century policies to help our economy create better jobs, and improve the opportunities of those who are stuck in low paying jobs to move up to better paying jobs.
To successfully tackle poverty and encourage upward mobility, we must move away from a one-size fits all approach to poverty reduction because every state has its own unique obstacles that require tailored solutions. Instead of continuing under the current system, we should turn Washington's existing anti-poverty programs — and the trillions spent on them — over to the states by creating a "Flex Fund" that lets states innovate. We should also streamline the tax code to encourage work rather than dependence by replacing the Earned Income Tax Credit with a Wage Enhancement Credit.
Work and education are the engine of upward mobility. So in addition to the reforms above, we must also make our higher education system more affordable, higher quality, and more easily customizable to fit workers' and employers' needs. We also need to stop stigmatizing vocational education and essential, high-paying blue-collar work.
Government's model for addressing poverty or helping Americans learn new skills is sorely outdated. These reforms will reclaim the American Dream for the 21st Century.
8. At what point in a pregnancy, and under what circumstances, should abortion be illegal?
I personally and deeply believe that all human life is sacred and worthy of the protection of our laws. And I believe that irrespective of the conditions by which that life was conceived or anything else. Abortion is not a political issue for me, it is a human rights issue. To truly be a nation where all human beings are equal, we must defend life.
I believe that life begins at the moment of conception, and I am strongly pro-life. Therefore, I oppose abortion in all instances, except in cases in which the life of the mother is imperiled by the pregnancy. That said, I support measures that include broader exceptions, because they will reduce the number of abortions in our country. I am proud of my 100% rating from National Right to Life.
9. For those opposed to gay marriage as a matter of faith or conscience, to what extent should they be allowed to behave according to those beliefs now that the U.S. Supreme Court has declared gay marriage is a fundamental right found in the U.S. Constitution?
In America, we have the freedom to live out our consciences and to follow God's commands for us. No one who holds traditional values should be coerced into living according to other values. And no religious institution should be discriminated against by the government because they uphold traditional marriage.
I support traditional marriage and strongly believe that religious liberty is a sacred right that must be protected. That's why I support the First Amendment Defense Act, which ensures the Federal Government never punishes anyone because of their beliefs about marriage.
10. What are your priorities related to both protecting the nation's natural resources and using those resources to provide for the nation's energy needs?
To achieve our full energy potential in the 21st century, I will follow three guiding principles: optimizing America's resources, minimizing government bureaucracy, and maximizing private innovation.
In order to optimize America's energy resources, I will immediately approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, empower states and tribes to control energy development within their borders, expedite the approval of American natural gas exports, and take other steps to ensure that the United States's energy resources are the envy of the world.
To minimize government bureaucracy, I will stop the EPA's Clean Power Plan, which, if enacted, would have a devastating impact on affordable energy in exchange for little to no environmental benefit. I will also work to institute a National Regulatory Budget that will hold regulators accountable by limiting what federal regulations can cost, which will prevent future job-killing regulations.
Finally, in order to maximize private innovation in the energy sector I will reform our outdated higher education system to support the energy jobs of the future, facilitate private sector-led development of new technologies, and overhaul the tax code and cut taxes for business of all sizes.
11. How would you seek to change defense spending, Social Security, healthcare spending, or the tax code in order to slow the growth of deficit spending and tackle the nearly $18.3 trillion national debt and over $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities?
Washington's addiction to irresponsible spending is the result not of necessity but of a stubborn resistance to reform. Our debt is not just a problem for government; it is a problem for the American people. It will hamper our economy today and limit the opportunities future generations will have to achieve the American Dream.
Tackling spending begins by reforming the two biggest drivers of our debt, which are a pair of vitally important programs: Social Security and Medicare. We need to reform Social Security and Medicare to save them for future seniors, and we need to do so without affecting the benefits of current seniors or those nearing retirement. We'll also need a balanced-budget amendment to compel Washington to live within its means.
The second solution to our national debt is vibrant economic growth. A growing economy will create more jobs, more taxpayers, and more prosperity. It is the only way to get the tax revenue we need to begin chipping away at the trillions we owe.
I have proposed a number of reforms to create growth; one of the most important is simplifying the tax code in a way that best encourages investment and provides relief for struggling middle-class families. I have put forth a tax plan that would do just that.
If we do not reduce federal spending and spur economic growth, we will not achieve financial stability, and the promise of this century will pass us by. We cannot let that happen.
12. What caused the Great Recession, and what should be done to ensure it doesn't happen again?
The Great Recession was not caused by government being too small. Teams of regulators were tasked with monitoring the financial system, but they failed to identify its biggest risks.
Despite all these failures, the government's response to the crisis has been to increase regulation through Dodd-Frank, rivaling only Obamacare on its size and scope. While the biggest Wall St. banks can afford to hire thousands of lawyers to deal with the onslaught of regulations, small community banks — the kind that lend to the communities and businesses hardest hit by the Great Recession — simply close their doors. We must repeal Dodd-Frank and end the burden it's putting on our economy.
As president I will end "Too Big to Fail," end taxpayer bailouts, and replace Dodd-Frank with clear but strict rules that protect our economy from another financial collapse.
Marco Rubio is a U.S. senator from Florida. To learn more, his campaign website is MarcoRubio.com.