U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio pitched himself as a defender of the U.S. Constitution and the country Friday night before a receptive crowd in West Columbia.
S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson asked the Florida Republican and presidential hopeful more than a dozen questions, starting with how Rubio would pick Supreme Court justices – a concern that Wilson said drove him to host the forums.
Rubio is the fourth GOP presidential candidate that Wilson, R-Lexington, has hosted in his forums on constitutional issues.
Rubio, whose two-day swing through the Palmetto State comes on the heels of a slow but steady rise in the polls, said he will be looking for judges who will uphold the law, not try to change policies through so-called judicial activism – something Republicans have accused Democratic President Obama’s judges of doing.
Rubio vowed that, if elected president, he would spend his “first few days” undoing Obama’s executive orders on immigration, on closing Guantanamo and on environmental policies “that are making American ... a more expensive place to do business, ... a more expensive place to live."
Defending Guantanamo, Rubio said: “We need a place in the world where we can take dangerous terrorists and interrogate them and capture from them information that we can use to capture other terrorists and to prevent terrorist attacks from happening."
Rubio seemed to strike the right chord with the crowd as he gave rapid-fire answers to Wilson’s questions in the hour-long discussion.
Rubio said he would push to cap how much money regulations can cost the economy. The addition of a $1 billion regulation would require regulating agencies to cut regulations elsewhere, he said, endorsing "cost-benefit" studies of each proposed regulation.
On immigration, Rubio said Obama "set back the cause of immigration reform” by giving “credence to that argument that we don’t trust the federal government to enforce the laws."
Rubio, whose parents were immigrants, helped push a failed Senate plan to give undocumented immigrants a pathway to citizenship. Like other GOP candidates, Rubio also has said the United States must prove its border is secure before moving forward on immigration reforms.
On health care, Rubio said he wants to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, and give consumers control over pre-tax health-care dollars from their employers to spend how they see fit.
Citing a “great deal of concern that our government – in an effort to protect our gay citizens – will overstep and punish people with personal religious convictions in the workplace," Wilson also asked Rubio how he would protect religious liberties.
Rubio promised he would “have a Department of Justice and an attorney general that will be vigilant about the religious liberty of every single American, not just to believe what they want, but to exercise their faith in every aspect of their lives.”