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CBS Berates Rubio for Opposing Budget Plan, A 'Rare Outbreak of Bipartisanship'

Norah O'Donnell and Charlie Rose predictably conducted a hostile interview of Senator Marco Rubio on Friday's CBS This Morning, badgering the Republican for his opposition to a budget proposal from Republican Rep. Paul Ryan and Democratic Senator Patty Murray. O'Donnell hinted that he was in the pocket of conservative special interest: "I want to ask you about the criticism that you may be more beholden to these conservative groups than to your own party."

The anchor later wondered if "these groups have too much power." Rose himself carried water for the supporters of the proposal: "Speaker Boehner has said, and others have said, is that it's going – it's the first step in the right direction, and you've got to find common ground and you've got to find compromise – otherwise, you'll have government shutdowns, which everybody loses." [MP3 audio available here; video below]

O'Donnell led the segment by highlighting "Speaker Boehner's comments...he said these conservative – the criticism is ridiculous. He blamed them for the shutdown, and said they've lost all credibility. Do you agree or disagree?" Rubio answered, in part, "I was simply asked my opinion on whether this budget takes us in the right direction as a country, and I personally feel that it does not. I mean, I think that the budget, unfortunately, continues to increase spending at a rate that is still unsustainable for our country."

Rose followed up with his "step in the right direction" quote from Boehner. The Florida Republican stated that he was opposed to government shutdowns, but added that "we have a government that's going to spend about $600 billion more than it takes in. And then, this budget comes in and actually adds money to that equation – to the amount of money that we need to borrow to function. So, I'm not sure that's a step in the right direction."
                   
The two anchors then took turns hammering Senator Rubio for his position, starting with O'Donnell's suggestion that he more loyal to conservative groups than the GOP. The politician pushed back at their questioning:

NORAH O'DONNELL: Senator, I want to ask you about the criticism that you may be more beholden to these conservative groups than to your own party, or – in the interest of legislating. For instance, if you look at the vote in the House yesterday, it had nearly equal Democratic and Republican votes. You had Congressman Ryan, the Republican, with the Democrat, Senator Patty Murray, working for months to work out a compromise. Shouldn't you be encouraging a rare outbreak of bipartisanship?

RUBIO: Well, I think that's good, and I've worked on projects before that involved Democrats, and I think compromise is a good thing. But compromise also has to be a solution. I mean, compromise just for the sake of compromise, so we can feel good about each other – I don't think – is progress for the country. I recognize that how difficult it is-

O'DONNELL: Really? Really? That's what you think?

RUBIO: Yeah. For the – for the sake of compromise that doesn't solve problems – just for the sake of it? Yeah, that's not a good thing for the country. They also have to have solutions-

ROSE: But – but, Senator, they're not saying-

RUBIO: No, no. We have a very serious problem in this country. I'm surprised that you're surprised by my answer, because-

ROSE: But Senator, they're not saying they're compromising for the sake of compromising-

RUBIO: No, no, no – but listen-

ROSE: They're saying they're compromising so that they can move forward – not for the sake of compromise.

RUBIO: No. That's what you have described the question as. No – that's how you've described the question. Compromise is a good thing, especially if it arrives at a solution. Our ultimate goal here is to solve problems, and to make progress on issues that confront our country. We have a government that continues to spend more money than it takes in at an alarming pace. That is going to trigger a debt crisis. It is stifling job creation. It is holding American ingenuity back. When is there going to be urgency around here about addressing that? This budget does not do that. And while compromise, hopefully, will lead to a solution on that, so far, it has not.

The former NBC correspondent then dropped her "too much power" question about right-leaning groups. The politician retorted, "Well, I don't know who backed down. I mean, the bill passed in the Senate. The House is not going to do the Senate bill. I'm trying to be realistic here. We're trying to make progress on that issue."

Rose and O'Donnell have a long history of unleashing on Republican/conservative guests, while conducting softball interviews of Democratic/liberal ones (their October 4, 2013 interview of Nancy Pelosi was a rare exception). The previous morning, O'Donnell slammed Congressman Paul Ryan himself over a reduction of benefits to veterans included in his bipartisan budget plan with Senator Murray. More than two weeks earlier, both CBS anchors hounded House Majority Leader Eric Cantor over his opposition to the Obama administration's nuclear deal with Iran.

The full transcript of the Marco Rubio interview from Friday's CBS This Morning:

NORAH O'DONNELL: The budget compromise faces more Republican opposition in the Senate.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio is one of its leading critics. He is on Capitol Hill. Senator, good to see you – welcome.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, (R), FLORIDA: Good morning; good morning.

[CBS News Graphic: "Budget Battle: Senator Rubio On GOP Debate Over Bill"]

O'DONNELL: Let me ask you about Speaker [John] Boehner's comments. I mean, he said these conservative – the criticism is ridiculous. He blamed them for the shutdown, and said they've lost all credibility. Do you agree or disagree?

RUBIO: Well, look, I think outside groups have a right to express their views. There are outside groups on every issue – on both sides of every issue here. And I have respect for Speaker Boehner, and respect for Chairman Ryan and the work they're trying to accomplish. I was simply asked my opinion on whether this budget takes us in the right direction as a country, and I personally feel that it does not. I mean, I think that the budget, unfortunately, continues to increase spending at a rate that is still unsustainable for our country. It increases spending by $60 billion over the next two years, but promises to pay for it with cuts over the next ten – something that we know Congress never gets back to actually carrying out.

CHARLIE ROSE: But what Speaker Boehner has said, and others have said, is that it's going – it's the first step in the right direction, and you've got to find common ground and you've got to find compromise – otherwise, you'll have government shutdowns, which everybody loses.

RUBIO: Well, I agree with that. I mean, I don't think we want to see a government shutdown, which is what I'm trying to prevent, ultimately, by avoiding a debt crisis, which would be the ultimate government shutdown. We have a government that's going to spend about $600 billion more than it takes in. And then, this budget comes in and actually adds money to that equation – to the amount of money that we need to borrow to function. So, I'm not sure that's a step in the right direction, but I certainly appreciate the other things they've tried to accomplish as part of this budget process. And I know it's difficult to be negotiating with some of the people they have to negotiate with – who, quite frankly, don't seem to have any sense of urgency about the future fiscal health of the country-

O'DONNELL: Senator-

RUBIO: But we have a fundamental problem: we have a government that's spending money it doesn't have.

O'DONNELL: Senator, I want to ask you about the criticism that you may be more beholden to these conservative groups than to your own party, or – in the interest of legislating. For instance, if you look at the vote in the House yesterday, it had nearly equal Democratic and Republican votes. You had Congressman Ryan, the Republican, with the Democrat, Senator Patty Murray, working for months to work out a compromise. Shouldn't you be encouraging a rare outbreak of bipartisanship?

[CBS News Graphic: "Budget Vote Breakdown: Republicans: Yea, 169; Nay, 62; Democrats: Yea, 163; Nay, 32; Total: Yay, 332; Nay, 94"]

RUBIO: Well, I think that's good, and I've worked on projects before that involved Democrats, and I think compromise is a good thing. But compromise also has to be a solution. I mean, compromise just for the sake of compromise, so we can feel good about each other – I don't think – is progress for the country. I recognize that how difficult it is-

O'DONNELL: Really? Really? That's what you think?

RUBIO: Yeah. For the – for the sake of compromise that doesn't solve problems – just for the sake of it? Yeah, that's not a good thing for the country. They also have to have solutions-

ROSE: But – but, Senator, they're not saying-

RUBIO: No, no. We have a very serious problem in this country. I'm surprised that you're surprised by my answer, because-

ROSE: But Senator, they're not saying they're compromising for the sake of compromising-

RUBIO: No, no, no – but listen-

ROSE: They're saying they're compromising so that they can move forward – not for the sake of compromise.

RUBIO: No. That's what you have described the question as. No – that's how you've described the question. Compromise is a good thing, especially if it arrives at a solution. Our ultimate goal here is to solve problems, and to make progress on issues that confront our country. We have a government that continues to spend more money than it takes in at an alarming pace. That is going to trigger a debt crisis. It is stifling job creation. It is holding American ingenuity back. When is there going to be urgency around here about addressing that? This budget does not do that. And while compromise, hopefully, will lead to a solution on that, so far, it has not.

O'DONNELL: Let me ask you about an immigration bill, for instance, that you put forward. It was heavily criticized by some of these same conservative groups, and then, you backed down. So, do these groups have too much power? They-

[CBS News Graphic: "Immigration Reform: Senator Rubio On Conservative Threats To Bill"]

RUBIO: Well, I don't know who backed down. I mean, the bill passed in the Senate. The House is not going to do the Senate bill. I'm trying to be realistic here. We're trying to make progress on that issue. And so, that is an example of where I'm saying – okay, well, the House is willing to do a lot of things on immigration. Let's begin to work on the things that we can find agreement on; that we can make progress on; that actually begin to solve some of our problems. And I believe that if we did that, we could actually create a situation where we could end up solving the entire problem.

The issue on immigration is not so much an issue of what needs to be done, but how it needs to be done – whether it needs to be done in one big piece of legislation or in a series of steps. But it's still the right thing for the country. I believe that as much today as I did on the day I joined the effort.

[CBS News Graphic: "Immigration Reform: Rubio's Proposed Plan: Border Security: Create, fund and initiate a border fence plans; Employment Verification: Universal e-verify must be implemented; Children of Illegal Immigrations; Eligible for permanent residence after 5 years; Source: Rubio.Senate.Gov"]

ROSE: Senator, when you made your initial criticism, Congressman Ryan suggested maybe you should have read the bill first. Had you read the bill?

RUBIO: I knew full well all the details of the important parts that were in it. In fact, they had been leaked – you know, days in advance – they had been leaked hours in advance. There was an understanding in this building – including from among our conferees – about what it included, and it had fundamental things we were well-aware of – for example, that it broke the budget caps that Congress had imposed on itself just two years ago, and actually will increase the amount of money that we have to borrow. It had elements in there that, for example, will make it easier now for Democrats to come back to Congress and raise taxes by waiving something called a budget point of order – which is a technical term internally – but basically, it means they can come back with 51 votes in the Senate and raise taxes. Those two reasons alone are reasons to oppose this.

ROSE: Senator, one quick question: do you believe this suggests there's a basic fight going on in the Republican Party at this moment on budget issues that could spill over into-

RUBIO: Well, I think sometimes – yeah. Look, I think sometimes everything up here is analyzed through a political lens, but I think what it suggests is that there's a vibrant debate going on in our country about what we need to do to bring our spending under control. No one – we need to have a functional federal government, which we won't be able to do if it has a debt crisis.

ROSE: Senator Rubio, thanks so much for joining us.

RUBIO: Thank you; thank you.

— Matthew Balan is a News Analyst at the Media Research Center. Follow Matthew Balan on Twitter.