Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos was in full Obama talking points mode, Wednesday, grilling Marco Rubio on why he won't support the President's agenda. Every question the host offered echoed the White House's State of the Union agenda. Stephanopoulos lectured, "The President last night asked the members of Congress to promise not to shut down the government, not to do anything that would undermine the full faith and credit of the United States. Can you take that pledge?" [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Rubio wouldn't be cornered, however. On the issue of sequestration, he shot back: "And as far as these automatic cuts are concerned, George, those are [Barack Obama's] ideas. He insisted on that. He's the one that asked for that in the deal that passed last year." Stephanopoulos spun, "Those were signed on by Democrats, Republicans and the President alike." (The former Democratic operative turned journalist offered this exact talking point to George Will on Tuesday night.) Rubio scoffed, "Yeah, well, I didn't vote for it."
At this point, the interview turned into more of an argument. Not letting go, Stephanopoulos assured viewers that Obama preferred an "alternative." He continued, "He wanted to have a broader agreement with Democrats and Republicans to avoid the sequester. That [Sequester cuts] was the fail safe."
Rubio mocked, "Well, we all prefer that. The question, of course, is if he really prefers a broader alternative, when is he going to offer it?"
Earlier in the interview, Stephanopoulos echoed the President's remarks about guns, wondering, "But do you agree with the President that there should be an up-or-down vote on his proposals?"
A bemused Rubio noted that "other issues" also deserve an up-or-down vote, including, "We should have a real plan to grow our economy. We should have a real plan for tax reform."
A transcript of the February 13 segment, which aired at 7:11am EST, follows:
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: And joining us now, the man who gave the Republican response to President Obama last night, Senator Marco Rubio of Florida. Good morning, senator. Thanks for joining us this morning.
MARCO RUBIO: Good morning, George. Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So, you laid out some very clear differences than the President last night on the core economics. I want to try and tease out at where there might be common ground. Let's go to the issue of guns, to begin with. You said that we can't have any proposals that undermine Second Amendment rights. But do you agree with the President that there should be an up-or-down vote on his proposals?
RUBIO: Well, I mean, you can say that on any issue in Washington. Certainly, if that's the way it– it has to work through the legislative process. There's other issues that should have an up-and-down vote, as well. We should have a budget. We should have a real plan to save Medicare. We should have a real plan to grow our economy. We should have a real plan for tax reform. All these deserve an up-and-down vote, as well. Now, as we said last night, we were heartbroken and we were sympathetic on what happened in Connecticut. And we need to prevent that from happening again. Unfortunately, all of the things the President is proposing, none of them would have prevented what happened in Connecticut. We need to look at the real root causes of violence in America.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And on the issue of immigration, the President said he wanted a responsible pathway to earn citizenship. You signed on to bipartisan principles for citizenship. But you didn't repeat it last night. Do you still share that goal?
RUBIO: Well, the speech wasn't just going to be about immigration. I'm part of that work group. And that's-- We laid out our principles and I remain committed to those principles. Ultimately, it's not good for America, to have 11 million people who never have a chance to be invested in the American dream. So, there has to be a process to get there. They have to have a work permit first. They are going to have to earn the right to ultimately earn that green card. And obviously, once you have a green card, you're five years away from becoming a citizen.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The big clash with the President last night on those core economic issues. And you know, those across-the-board budget cuts are coming fast, on March 1, a potential government shutdown at the end of March. The President last night asked members of Congress to promise not to shut down the government, not to do anything that would undermine the full faith and credit of the United States. Can you take that pledge?
RUBIO: No one here is talking about shutting down the government. And as far as the automatic cuts are concerned, George, those are his ideas. He insisted on that. He's the one that asked for that in the deal that passed last year.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Those were signed on by Democrats, Republicans and the President alike.
RUBIO: Yeah. Well, I didn't vote for it. Because– One of the reasons I didn't vote for it is because it was such a terrible idea. But I think it's wrong for him to insist on that. He actually came up with it. It originated in the White House, the idea of these automatic cuts, specifically hits defense and the military. And now, he's saying we have to get rid of them. We may. Don't go on acting like he had nothing to do with it. It was your idea.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, the President preferred an alternative, as you know. He wanted to have a broader agreement with Democrats and Republicans to avoid the sequester. That was the fail safe.
RUBIO: Well, we all prefer that. The question, of course, is if he really prefers a broader alternative, when is he going to offer it? President Obama has been president for four years and a month. The budgets he has offered are so ridiculous, George, that not even Democrats in the senate would vote for them.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, I have got to ask you about the water bottle last night. Twitter went a little bit wild. You tweeted about the water bottle yourself. You got it there again. You know, you showed an ability to laugh at yourself. Do you have anything to add to that tweet from last night?
RUBIO: No. I needed water. What am I going to do? It happens. God has a funny way of reminding us we're human.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You have a big smile on your face. Thank you for joining us.