Despite being surrounded by political journalists, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) appeared calm, cool and collected as he chatted with Buzzfeed Editor-in-Chief Ben Smith Tuesday night and the popular online publication’s inaugural “BuzzFeed Brews” event in Washington, D.C.
Whether he was discussing immigration reform, women in combat, climate change or his taste in music the freshman Senator and oft talked about 2016 presidential candidate seemed right at home in front of the rowdy crowd at the Bar 201 event, which took place just a stone’s throw away from his home away from home in the Hart Senate Office Building.
During the ‘Brew,’ Rubio championed moving toward a republic with a smaller federal government and a free economy, suggesting that the government needs to move toward a place where it acts as a safety net to catch people who have fallen on hard times more than a harness keeping people from losing their balance the tight rope.
“I think the problem we get into is when we believe there’s a government answer to every problem, or when we overestimate government’s ability to grow the economy and create opportunity for prosperity,” he said. “This is not about balancing the budget by denying people the government services they need. It’s about growing our economy, so people need less government services.”
Smith and Rubio discussed a wide number of topics, but they spent a significant amount of time talking about immigration reform, which Rubio is attempting to champion along with other members of the so-called “Gang of Eight,” an bipartisan group of Senators, four Democrats and four Republicans.
Like fellow ‘Group of Eight’ member John McCain (R-Ariz.), Rubio was adamant that the new laws should not concern coverage for LGBT partners.
“This issue’s so complicated. The immigration issue has so many landmines and pitfalls,” Rubio said. “I think if that issue becomes a central issue in the debate, it’s just going to make it harder to get it done.”
The conservative Republican said the issue has negative connotations for states rights. “I’ve always been uncomfortable with a federal constitutional amendment on anything, particular on [gay marriage].”
Smith also put the freshman Senator on the spot with another issue of the moment: women in combat.
“I think the bottom line is that we have to have our best people,” Rubio said. “If that person happens to be a woman, then I don’t have a problem with it.”
The Florida Senator also talked about global warming, noting that he has seen cost-benefit analysis that would impose “devastating” economic impacts to the country if the federal government enacts the bulk of the legislation Democrats are proposing. He also pointed out that China and India, not the U.S., are the “largest polluters in the world by far,” and thus, changes to U.S. regulations wouldn’t solve many of the problems environmentalists are concerned about.
“The changing climate is not the fundamental question,” Rubio added. “The fundamental question is whether man-made activity is contributing to it.”
The interview wasn’t all work and no play for conservative superstar, though. He and Smith also discussed his musical interests (don’t look for Biggie Smalls tunes on his Spotify account – he’s not a fan), with Rubio confirming that he does like Eminem. Rubio said he likes Tupac, too.
“I think Tupac’s lyrics were more insightful,” he said. “In some ways, rappers are like reporters… so the ’90s was a time when this was really pronounced. You had gang wars, racial tension, and they were reporting on that.”
The Florida Senator will be “rollin’ with [his] homies” in the coming weeks as the Gang of Eight’s immigration reform proposal hits the Senate floor. He will also be giving the Republican address to the State of the Union. Whether or not he’ll ride the wave all the way to first-in-the-nation-state in 2016, though, is still up in the air.
“I really believe that if I do the best job I can in the Senate, then, in a couple of years, I’ll be in a position to make a decision about whether I want to run for reelection, leave politics and give someone else a shot, or run for some other position,” Rubio said.
Francesca Chambers contributed to this report.