Senators Coons and Rubio on Jobs and the Economy

BLITZER: Let’s go to Capitol Hill and finally, finally, a good news story for all of us to enjoy. A new bipartisan jobs bill designed to attract broad Congressional support was unveiled on Capitol Hill today. Supporters say it would boost opportunities for companies to hire skilled legal immigrants, extend the tax write-off for purchases of new business equipment for three years, and provide a tax credit for veterans seeking to start franchises. It would do a whole lot more than that as well. Those are some of the specifics.

Let’s talk about it with the new plans, the new bill’s sponsors, Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. They’re actually working together create jobs for the American people.

Senator Rubio, first to you. Why can’t your colleagues do what you guys are trying to do?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLORIDA: Well, they will. We hope they’re going to come on board. I mean, these ideas are borrowed from them. These are ideas that many of our colleagues have offered both in the House and here in the Senate, and so they should get on board, and I think they will. I’m optimistic about that.

BLITZER: Senator Coons, there’s been so much bitterness, gridlock in Washington. Why all of a sudden are the two of you collaborating on this kind of legislation?

SEN. CHRIS COONS (D), DELAWARE: Well, what first brought us to together was a Delawarean, a friend to both of us who’s encouraged us since we both became senators just about a year ago to get to know each other, to begin to work together, and to exchange ideas. Privately, the senators I’ve met in my first year here, both Republican and Democrat, from all across the country, really want to be working together. Sometimes it just takes being willing to take the risk, to make the first move. And I frankly think this has been a good, collaborative experience for both of us.

BLITZER: How much grief, potentially, Senator Rubio, do you think you could get from some of those Tea Party activists, conservatives, ,when they see you collaborating with a Democrat like Chris Coons?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, I don’t think that’s going to be the issue of our problem. People want to see jobs being created. They want government to do what it can. And most importantly, people of all persuasions look at us and say at least work together on the things you agree on.

And there’s plenty to fight over. I mean, there’s plenty of disagreement on other issues. I don’t think there’s any shortage of that. That’s why we have elections. But these are the things that we agree on, that there’s broad bipartisan support, and if we agree on them, we should pass them, because the people deserve us to be working for them.

BLITZER: While all of this is commendable, Senator Coons, I want you to weight in, because you’re an authority on this part of the subject. I went through your proposals pretty carefully, and there’s a lot of tax stuff in there. As complicated as the U.S. tax code is right now, doesn’t this, for all the positive benefits, potentially, further complicate the U.S. tax system?

COONS: Well, we do need to make progress towards a simpler, clearer tax code that is easier to follow and easier to implement. But in an environment where we haven’t yet done comprehensive tax reform, I think the simple, positive tax changes that this bill proposes, things that have enjoyed bipartisan support, both houses, both parties, are worth moving forward.

There are things in this bill that would encourage small business formation, small businesses going public, small business being able to grow. But there’s also, Wolf, provisions of the bill that encourage American innovators to manufacture here what they invent here, that protects American intellectual property, and that encourages America’s veterans to take on entrepreneurship by becoming franchise owners.

It’s a broad bill. It’s got pieces across a whole range of different issues. But in some ways, I think the most important thing we worked on together was a commonsense bill that has proposals that both parties, both houses ought to be able to pass.

BLITZER: Senator Rubio, your leaders, Mitch McConnell, Harry Reid, are they on board?

RUBIO: Well, I haven’t spoken to Senator Reid. I can tell you Senator McConnell has already publicly said that he thinks it’s a good idea, and I hope we can enlist his help in moving it forward. I’ll let him speak more about that. But I’m optimistic.

I mean, really, these are ideas that people have come on board and supported already. There really is no excuse and no reason why this thing shouldn’t pass fairly quickly.

BLITZER: Have you spoken to Harry Reid, Senator Coons?

COONS: I’ve spoken with folks who work for Harry Reid, with others in leadership, and many of the senators who I’ve approached in the weeks leading up to today, and today in my caucus, were very responsive. They’re looking at it, and it’s my hope, as it is Senator Rubio’s, that we will see quickly see the number of cosponsors grow and that we’ll also see folks in the House decide to join us in what I think is a very commonsense, passable package of job-creating reform.

BLITZER: Have you checked in, Senator Coons, with your friends over at the White House?

COONS: Not yet. BLITZER: Why not?

COONS: Well, in my view, this was the sort of thing that Congress needs to start.

Many of these proposals actually came out of either the president’s jobs council or the president’s Jobs Act. So I didn’t expect that it would run into any opposition from the White House since many of the ideas in here were originally proposed to the jobs council, which the president performed.

In fact, Steve Case, who’s one of the leaders of Startup America, the Entrepreneurship Initiative, formed by the White House, and who serves on the president’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, spoke today when Senator Rubio and I announced the introduction of the bill. He spoke very positively in favor of it.

So, it’s my hope, my expectation that most of the elements of this bill will enjoy support from the administration.

BLITZER: Senator Rubio, we’re out of time, but a quick political question. A Florida primary coming up not that long away, end of January. And you ready to endorse any of these Republican candidates?

RUBIO: No, and I probably won’t. I’m excited about Florida’s role though, and I’m excited about the issues that the candidates will have to face. And looking forward to your national security debate that’s coming up soon.

BLITZER: One week from today, next Tuesday. If both of you want tickets into Constitution Hall, talk to me. I think I can help you get in.


BLITZER: Hey, guys, thanks very much. We’re really hopeful that maybe this is a sign that Democrats and Republicans finally can work together and do something productive for the American people. Let’s’ hope it works out. Good luck.

RUBIO: Thank you.

COONS: Thanks.