TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and his Democratic challenger, former U.S. Rep. Val Demings, will face off in person for Florida’s only U.S. Senate debate on Tuesday.
The two senate candidates, vying for a chance to preserve or change up the upper chamber’s status quo, will use the opportunity to tell voters who they are, and where they stand on key issues affecting Americans.
Rubio, the incumbent Republican, has served as one of Florida’s U.S. senators since 2011.
Demings, a former law enforcement officer, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2017 to 2022.
Below, you’ll be able to catch the key moments during the debate, brought to you in real time on WFLA.com.
Asked about the inflationary pressures that have continued to impact American consumers, Sen. Rubio and candidate Demings both spoke about their ideas for how to bring costs down.
Rubio said the inflation was owed to the administration of President Joe Biden, because of energy policies and other budgetary decisions.
“The first thing we have to start doing is stop spending that kind of money, we had already done two pandemic reliefs,” Rubio said. “And they were warned, the Democrats were warned, that if you do this you’re going to fire up inflation.”
He said the U.S. shouldn’t be “begging” for oil from countries like Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, instead that it should produce its own. and that using the petroleum reserves should not continue.
“We’re producing 1 million barrels per day less than we used to do just a couple of years ago. Instead, we are depleting our reserves,” Rubio said. “Oil reserves do not exist to win midterms, they exist to help this country in an emergency or in the midst of a storm.”
Rubio said proposals to tax barrels of oil by as much as $10.25 tax on each barrel of oil, and other similar proposals, were “crazy” and that you fix inflation by “getting people like that out of office.”
Demings responded by saying that Rubio was a senator “who has never run anything at all but his mouth,” continuing by saying he wouldn’t know how to help people in trouble and pointing to how pandemic relief was used to help Americans. She said “no one had planned the pandemic.”
“Individuals were hurting, families were hurting, businesses were hurting, we passed the CARES Act. Which the senator supported,” Demings said. “There were some problems in the CARES Act, with the Paycheck Protection Program, that you love to take credit for, some say it was poorly written, some say it didn’t help the people that it was supposed to, didn’t save the jobs it was supposed to. There was a way to fix the problems in the PPP through the American Rescue Plan and help people that were in trouble, but you played politics, senator. And you did not do that. Your number one job as a United States Senator is to protect the health, safety, and wellbeing of the American people. You’ve been at it for 24 years.”
Rubio fired back, saying that while Democrats “were sitting at home, in the house, in their pajamas doing Zoom calls,” they’d passed the CARES Act, and that he was proud that Congress had saved millions of businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The truth of the matter is, that if we hadn’t done that, we would’ve had a meltdown. We would have had a meltdown in this country. We saved millions of businesses, I am incredibly proud. It is a bipartisan achievement had we not done it we would’ve had a depression, in this country,” Rubio said. “The Congresswoman likes to talk about helping people, she’s never passed a bill. She’s never passed a single bill. She’s been in Congress for over half a decade, but she’s never passed a bill. Not PPP, not anything. Not a single bill she’s passed has ever become law.”
Demings said it was not true, and that she was “seriously disappointed,” in the incumbent senator.
“There was a time, when you did not lie in order to win,” Demings said. “I don’t know what happened to you, you know that is not true. My first term in the U.S. House, I passed legislation to help law enforcement officers with mental health programs. Your first term in the Senate, you voted to turn Medicare into, basically to abolish it and turn it into an underfunded voucher program. Then you gave the biggest tax break to the richest of the rich, and then said that you’d pay for it with cuts to Social Security and Medicare.”
Rubio responded saying he was happy to be fact-checked, that his website would have the bills online, showing that she had not passed any legislation that she sponsored, joking that he and she had both at least sponsored bills to name post offices. He said he was proud of his record.
“The senator has obviously resorted to lying, cheating, and trying to steal, but it’s embarrassing that you think honoring a person who is a hero by naming a building after them is nothing,” Demings said. “I think honoring a police officer who was killed in the line of duty is everything, senator. It matters to his family, it matters to his community, it matters to his department, it matters to me. I think it’s sad that it doesn’t really matter to you.”
Asked about abortion, Rubio was asked about his signing on to the national abortion ban proposed by Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.).
“Number one, I’m 100% pro-life. Not because I want to deny anyone their rights, but because I believe innocent human life is worthy of the protection of our laws,” Rubio said. “That said, every bill I’ve ever sponsored on abortion, every bill I’ve ever voted for, has exceptions. Every one of them does. Because that’s what can pass and that’s what people support. Now before us today, in Congress, Lindsay Graham’s bill, it’s a four month ban. It’s more lenient than every country in Europe except two.”
Rubio said Demings was an abortion extremist, that she supports taxpayer funded abortion, “on demand, for any reason, at any time, including the moment before birth.”
Rubio said nobody asks about that, but that they should.
Demings fired back, asking him “how gullible do you think people in Florida are?”
She said that she had investigated rape as a police officer, and that he had been clear that he supported “no exceptions, including rape and incest.”
“No senator, I don’t think it’s okay for a 10-year-old girl to be raped and have to carry the seed of her rapist,” Demings said. “No, I don’t think it’s okay for you to make decisions for women and girls, as a senator, I think those decisions are made between the woman, her family, her doctor and her faith. And to stand over there and say that I support abortions up to the time of birth is just a lie. But to help protect the life of a mother, but you looked at that as if that’s, well, kind of a side issue, you know you’ve said you don’t support any exceptions.”
Getting into debate over “extremes,” Rubio said there were 11 cases of a child being born alive from a failed abortion in Florida in 2017, and another eight times in 2020.
“A child in a failed abortion, born alive,” Rubio said. “And we have doctors in America that refuse to treat or provide medical care to a child born alive. We tried to pass a bill to ban that, we said that’s infanticide.”
Rubio accused her of voting against it, “that’s how extreme she is.”
Demings said that “we know the senator supports no exceptions. He can make his mouth say anything today, he’s good at that by the way, what day is it, and what is Marco Rubio saying?”
She said that she supports a woman’s right to choose up to the point of viability. Rubio said she supports abortion without limit. Demings responded that he supports no exceptions, promising that “we are not going back, no matter how obsessed you are” with women’s right to choose.
Rubio accused Demings of bringing the government into the hospital room, and she said it was a private decision, as the two spoke over each other. The moderator cut them off, but Rubio slipped in a final comment, saying she had not said exactly what limits she supports.
The debate moderator asked both candidates if they would accept the results of the 2022 elections, citing polls that showed groups of Americans were willing to vote for a candidate who did not accept the results from the 2020 election.
Demings referred to her family history, saying that the American system of government was not perfect, but was “what allows us to be here tonight, we have to do everything within our power to uphold the Constitution, protect the rule of law, and protect each person’s, Republican, Democrat, Independent’s, right to vote.” She said she supported that for everyone.
She hit her time limit, and Rubio responded.
“I’ve never denied an election, ever, haven’t ever said, denied an election. I’m not Stacy Abrams in Georgia who denied an election,” Rubio said. “I think in Florida we have great election laws, but I think elections have to have rules.”
Rubio said Demings supported “federal takeover of elections,” and listed examples of the “chaos” that could happen if Democrats get those options, such as “not asking for ID, you have to ask for ID to get into her neighborhood, where she lives. You have every right to have that, but you can’t ask for it when they vote? Allowing people to drive around with a trunk full of absentee ballots. Allowing people to basically register an hour before, same day of the election, to just show up and vote and inject chaos. We have to rules and they have to be followed.”
Comparing Florida to Georgia, Rubio said that the state had had great turnout, but that there have to be rules, and that they don’t infringe on voting rights.
The moderator asked again if he would support the election’s results.
“We have great laws in Florida, absolutely, because I’m going to win, I look forward to supporting that,” Rubio said. “Yes, no matter what the outcome is, I’ll support it, because Florida has good laws.”
Regarding federal measures to avoid insurance crises, Rubio responded first.
“First, the flood insurance program, which is critical, a lot of the people hurt in the storm did not have flood insurance,” Rubio said. “Not only, we have to go back and reauthorize it every year, we shouldn’t have to go back every year, we shouldn’t have to keep going back every year. We should reform it.”
The senator said Florida pays more into the flood insurance system than other states, taking less out than it puts in and that the federal government should not be involved in property insurance.
“I believe the number is 8% or 9% of the roof claims in America. We are 83% of roof lawsuits in America,” Rubio said. “So what’s happening to these insurers is the cost of litigation, they say, look, we’re out. We’re out of Florida.”
Rubio said it was a looming crisis that “the state has to get their arms around,” to reform it to have Florida treated fairly.
Demings, answering the same question, said that while Rubio said it was a state issue, “it doesn’t mean at the federal level, we shouldn’t care about what citizens in Florida are going through and doing something about it.”
Referring to Rubio’s record as a member of the Florida Legislature, she asked that what had he done while serving in the state office to fix the problem.
“He’s been in elected office since 1998, and insurance in Florida has tripled and people are suffering,” Demings said. “I sent a letter to Gov. DeSantis saying, yes I know it’s a state issue, but how can we work together to lower the cost of property insurance for Floridians, because people are suffering. We’re waiting for the next hurricane, are we gonna wait and do nothing?”
She said she had asked the governor to call a special session to handle it. Rubio rebutted, saying that there had been a special session while he was Speaker of the Florida House, that had dealt with it, but that if it had failed under current Democratic candidate for Governor Charlie Crist, what should they do.
He said that if the federal government has issues delivering the mail, how would it handle the property insurance crisis.
Gun rights and mass shootings
Asking about gun rights and recent shootings, particularly in reference to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz avoiding a death sentence, Rubio, quoted by the moderator, had said he would support federal laws that limit gun purchases of rifles for those who were 18.
Asked about it, Rubio said the law wouldn’t work.
“We had a shooter last Thursday, tragic, in North Carolina, but he was 15. Where did he get the gun? He didn’t get it from a gun show,” Rubio said. “He certainly didn’t buy it. He’s 15 years of age. We’ve had shootings in the state. Pulse, it was a terrorist attack. A licensed security guard, with a permit to carry firearms, extensive background checks. The guy in Parkland, this killer, everybody knew who it was, even before they announced it, everybody knew who it was.”
Rubio said it was an example of someone with mental health issues falling through the cracks, even when law enforcement, FBI included, knew about him.
“I think the solution to this problem is to identify people acting this way and stop them before they act,” Rubio said, rather than infringe upon people’s Second Amendment rights. He said the fundamental issue was “why are these kids going out and massacring people?”
Demings responded, saying that people who were families of victims of gun violence, are listening to Rubio and “asking themselves, what did he just say?”
“Senator, you used the Pulse Night Club shooting as your inspiration to run again for the Senate in 2016. Pulse is in my district,” Demings said. “And yet you’ve done nothing, nothing, to help address gun violence and get dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people. Florida, after you made promises that you had no intentions of keeping, passed legislation raising the age of having an assault weapon. Florida passed red flag laws which had more than 7,000-plus instances where they’ve been used now. Our responsibility is the safety of Floridians, and senator, 24 years in elected office, you have not risen to that occasion. And then when asked about it you say something that makes no sense.”
Rubio responded to Demings on that line.
“What makes no sense is that we’re actually going to pass laws that only law-abiding people will follow, and criminals will continue to violate,” Rubio said. “The truth of the matter is, at the end of the day, Americans have a Second Amendment right to protect themselves. And these killers, that are out there, if they’re intent on killing as they are, they have found multiple ways to get a hold of weapons and cause mass destruction. The other day he used a shotgun, which would’ve been covered by any of these restrictions.”
Referring to his bipartisan red flag law, Rubio said leftists in America wanted to instead use “California’s red flag law,” allowing people with a grudge against you to have your weapons taken away.
In her rebuttal, Demings focused on legislation including responsible gun ownership and protecting lives.
“Every time we talk about responsible gun ownership and legislation that could help protect lives, you pull the Second Amendment out,” Demings said. “My father was a responsible gun owner. This has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. This is ab out taking dangerous guns out of the hands of dangerous people. And the overwhelming majority of people in our nation want us to do just that. How long will you watch people being gunned own in 1st grade, 4th grade, high school college, a church, synagogue, a grocery store, a move theater, a night club, and do nothing?”
Rubio said nothing she proposed would have stopped those events from occurring.
“No one here is in favor of mass shootings and violence, she says we did nothing and that’s not accurate,” Rubio said. “The truth is, today, you go the Department of Homeland Security website, there’s a clearinghouse, she’s going to mock it and she shouldn’t because the idea came from a Parkland father, and there’s a clearinghouse there that basically tells schools ‘this is what works for safety and this is what doesn’t.”
He said the Biden administration was trying to take the clearinghouse down because it targeted minority schools.
Demings rebutted him, saying that the clearinghouse didn’t do anything to stop mass shootings, including ones in Florida. She said, again, that his primary responsibility as senator was to protect the health and wellbeing of those he represents.
Rubio said that he had passed a law doing those things, and then right after there was a shooting.
Demings cut in, saying sarcastically, “why don’t we just stop arresting murderers since we can’t fight them all, rapists and robbers…”
Moderators ended that question set and went to a brief intermission.
The first question after the intermission was focused on immigration policy. Recently, the Biden administration made changes to immigration policy as far as it concerns sending people back over the southern border and banned from seeking asylum when they’re found in the U.S. without proper process being followed.
“You mean Biden is reinstituting Trump’s return to Mexico policy?” Rubio said. The moderator said there was more to it but Rubio continued. “That’s exactly what he did. Look, Congresswoman Demings says that what’s happening at the border is nothing unusual. We have 5,000 people a day crossing the border. Do you know how many people have entered our country illegally since Joe Biden took over as President? 5 million. You know how many have entered this country just in the last 12 months? 2 million. At least 80 of them on the terror watch list. At least, according to the most generous numbers, at least 1% meaning 20,000, with serious criminal violations in their record.”
Saying he sympathized with what residents of Nicaragua, Cuba, Venezuela and other countries are going through, Rubio said no country in the world could afford 5,000 people coming to the border a day, “saying the magic words,” and receiving asylum.
“She says that’s not a problem, that there’s nothing unusual about it, this cannot continue,” Rubio said. “It has to be fixed, that needs to happen with everyone coming across or we’re going to have 10,000 people a day coming and no country in the world can tolerate that.”
Answering the same question, Demings offered her ideas for solving the southern border crisis.
“We are a nation of laws, I’ve enforced them for 27 years. Despite what the senator wants you to believe, he’s living in fantasy land, I’ve enforced them,” Demings said. “We need to make sure our men and women have the resources that they need. I am a fan of boots on the ground, but let’s also hire more processors so we can separate those who need to be arrested from those seeking asylum. We are a nation of laws, but we also, we have to enforce the law but we also have to obey the law, that says people who are in trouble can seek asylum in this country.”
She said more personnel, more technology, and more processors would help secure the border, and said we need more agents at the border, saying that Rubio insulted those working by saying it was an open border.
Rubio fired back ,saying that the only people who were insulted were those accused by Democrats of whipping Haitian migrants, which was untrue, and saying that Demings had opposed a border wall, noting that “even Charlie Crist opposed” what Rubio called the “crazy people’s budget.”
Rubio said Demings wanted more processors to get people into the U.S. faster, but Demings responded that with more processors, those who did not meet asylum seeker standards were sent back, and that having more resources would let them separate those groups more quickly while still enforcing the law.
“Which boots does she want on the ground?” Rubio asked. “She was against National Guard deployment, they’ve demonized the border patrol…”
Demings interrupted asking who he was talking about, saying that she had opposed the personnel and demonized those working at the southern border. As both candidates continued talking over each other, the moderator moved to the next topic.
Demings was asked about Social Security funding and raising taxes. Asked why Congress should “fund a broken system,” Demings said the point of Social Security was to keep seniors out of pvoerty.
“Being in elected office and the critical position of being a United States Senator is about making choices to protect people,” Demings said. “I believe that we’ve got to do everything in our power to protect those who have had to go to work every day and deserve to be able to retire with dignity and respect. Governing is about priorities, and Social Security and protecting it is a priority for me. I’m not going to sacrifice this, we need to do, whatever that is, to protect it. We can do that.”
Rubio was asked about Florida’s other Senator, Rick Scott, and his 11-point plan to rescue America, which requires all federal legislation to sunset every five years. This includes entitlement programs like Veterans benefits, Social Security, and Medicare.
Rubio said he did not support sunsetting those programs, and that Scott was not shy and that he was more than happy to talk about his plan.
“If you want to talk about radical plans, Congresswoman Demings supported a radical plan, I already mentioned it earlier, the people’s budget, let me tell you about that budget,” Rubio said. “Let me tell you the other gems in that budget. It raised $9 trillion in taxes. I already told you about the $10.25 tax on a barrel of oil, which would’ve meant a $0.35 increase on the gas prices you’re already paying.”
He said the proposal had also taken $1 billion from the Pentagon, and “zeroed out the War on Terror.” Rubio continued, saying she “voted for it, she didn’t just put her name on it. She actually voted for the crazy people’s budget. A socialist budget. I don’t know if she remembers,” but Rubio repeated that she had voted for it. Demings joked that she had not seen a socialist budget.
“Senator you’re repeating yourself again, we’ve seen this show before,” Demings said. “Socialist. Socialist. Crazy. Marxist. Silly—.”
Rubio interrupted asking which word she’d prefer.
“That must be on your list for your talking points, the bottom line is,” Demings said. “You said, Rick Scott’s plan, you said it was good to have good ideas, you did not say that you did not support it. I hear you saying that tonight, but when you were first asked about his plan, you said I think it’s good to have good ideas. Do you remember that?”
Rubio responded saying it was Sen. Scott’s plan, he can defend it, then switched back to the proposal she had co-sponsored.
“Her name was on that people’s budget…It had her name on it. She was not just a co-sponsor two years in a row,” Rubio said. “She voted for it. There wasn’t a vote on Rick Scott’s budget, but she voted for this thing. $8 trillion in taxes, eight or nine, I can’t remember, but at this point, what’s another trillion, right?”
Rubio mentioned the gas tax again, then said that while he didn’t know “what word you prefer, Socialist, Marxist, crazy. I don’t know. I’m open to suggestions that—” the moderator began speaking over the senator—”that will not destroy this country.”
Demings responded, referring to Rubio’s focus on the oil tax.
“Look, you’ve been in elected office, in Florida, for 24 years. And what we have been left with is skyrocketing property insurance, lack of affordable housing, health care gone through the roof, we haven’t expanded Medicaid,” Demings said. “People are hurting, and you know what senator? When we talk to your voters around the state, you know what they say? They don’t know what you stand for.”
War in Ukraine
Demings said the U.S. should hold both allies and other countries accountable for their actions, answering a question about ongoing efforts to assist Ukraine in their defense against Russian invasion.
“Russia has attacked Ukraine, our friend, what they thought was going to be over in a few days has now gone on for almost a year. We have to support Ukraine and our NATO allies,” Demings said. “We always use diplomacy around the NATO table, we cannot afford to have a nuclear attack. The United States has to do everything in its power to prevent that from happening.”
Rubio answered the same question, saying he was against Vladimir Putin before “it was cool.”
“I remember that very well, because Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration tried to reset relations with him,” Rubio said. “Now, I’m not sure if the president had to do it over again, he would choose the words Armageddon or Cuban Missile Crisis, but there’s not doubt about this. Vladimir Putin is losing this war, and if he loses the war he’ll lose his position. I don’t think the retirement plan for former Russian dictator presidents is a very good one. So I think he’s very concerned about that and I do think we need to be very wary.”
Rubio said he was worried about him using a tactical weapon, which for him wasn’t a nuclear missile aimed at Chicago or New York, but use of artillery shells and shortrange missiles on the battlefield.
“I think the likelier scenario, and the one that really is concerning, is that he would attack, for example, an airport in Poland,” Rubio said. “At that point, NATO would have to come together and decide if it would invoke Article V, and the United States needs to live up to its NATO commitments.”
Asked about the NATO factor, Demings said the U.S. and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization would have to do everything in their power to protect NATO allies.
“Everything within our power,” Demings said. “If Poland is attacked, then there has to be an immediate response, and I believe that between our military and the Dept. of Defense and our experts and our intelligence community, based on the intelligence on the ground, I believe that that response will be sufficient and swift, but that we have to leave it in the hands of the people who are there, and the people who are involved in this every day. With the ultimate goal of keeping America safe, and keeping our allies, our NATO friends, safe.”
Rubio said the response should be proportional, that NATO would have to meet and decide, it cannot be a unilateral U.S. response.
“It’s not anything at our disposal, because we’re not talking about the use of strategic weapons or starting World War III, but I would argue to you tonight,” Rubio said. “That they’ve already attacked NATO. Because the Nordstream Pipeline underwater, that supplies Germany from Russia, has been bombed. It was bombed, and everyone’s wondering, I saw a news report, everyone was saying ‘well Russia may have done it.’ Well, who else did it? Luxembourg? Belgium?”
Demings was asked about election laws on a federal level. She answered that she wasn’t the one on stage who supports suppressing voters.
“I can think about the words of my friend and former colleague John Lewis, who said the right to vote is precious, it’s almost sacred, and the senator said we should leave that up to states,” Demings said. “We tried that, with voting rights, and we know the bad actors who did some ungodly things to stop people from voting. So we should not just protect the right for a few people, the privileged few, we should protect the right for everyone. And we need a federal law to keep everyone accountable.”
She said the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act was waiting for a vote in the U.S. Senate, and that it was a duty and responsibility to let the people vote.
Answering a different question, Rubio was asked about an Op-Ed in The Federalist, which he wrote Democrats’ that fear of voting rights being taken away “was an imaginary problem.”
He said that it’s never been easier to vote.
“It’s never been easier to vote, in Florida you can now vote by mail for any reason,” Rubio said. “You can vote, for example, 10 days before the election, you can vote on the election day. In Georgia, which they claim to be the place suppressing all the votes, you had record African American voter turnout. Comparing it to the Jim Crow era, where people were literally murdered, where people were forced to pay poll taxes, to pay poll taxes and take literacy tests, what are we talking about here?”
Rubio said he’d been a Hispanic man his entire life and having to provide an ID to vote did not disadvantage his ability to vote.
“You can’t check into a hotel, you can’t buy Sudafed at Walgreens, without an ID, that’s number one” Rubio said. “You can’t collect a bunch of ballots. Harvesting of ballots. Cars showing up with tons of ballots sitting in the trunk of a car. Things like that, that they want to force down the throat of every state in the country. We don’t need that federal law imposed on every state. Florida has very good election laws. Other states have very good election laws, and the states that don’t have very good election laws are the states that have actually gone in the opposite direction, weakening security for the ballot.”
The moderator returned to Demings, who discussed Florida’s election law police force.
“If the laws are so wonderful, what’s the need for that? Florida also eliminated the number of drop boxes from 2020. Why do that particularly in certain areas, senator?” Demings asked. “Your job is to make sure that every person votes, the ones that may vote for you, and the ones that may not vote for you. That is your responsibility. So if it’s so perfect, why the adjustments?”
She said states must be held accountable to make sure that everyone has the “precious right to vote,” even if it “scares the senator to death.”
Rubio responded saying if he was trying to suppress the vote, he was wasting money by encouraging people to go vote. He said he had never supported any suppression effort.
“How come all of a sudden a drop box is the standard by which we judge whether people are being allowed to vote or not?” Rubio asked. “We didn’t have drop boxes 10 years ago. We didn’t have drop boxes in 2016 when the Congresswoman was first elected to Congress. We didn’t have drop boxes in 2012 when Barack Obama won the state of Florida running for president. That’s a method that doesn’t advance one group or another, there’s a danger involved in drop boxes. What if someone decides to go to a drop box and put some explosive in it and burn all the votes in it and then they don’t count at all?”
Rubio said the most important thing was that the vote counts were accurate, that there was publics confidence, and that the public believes the elections were fair and balanced.
Demings, instead, said that Rubio and the Republican party had taken steps to suppress votes, and that it was nonsense that he had not done so.
The moderator cut to another topic before switching to closing statements.
Focusing on China, Demings said the country must be held accountable.
“The bottom line is the United States is the world power. WE are the most powerful nation in the world,” Demings said. “We know China has not been the best player ,the best actor, and we have to hold them accountable. What President Xi said about taking Taiwan, possibly by force, that is totally against our principles and our values and we have to take action if there’s any serious effort to do that.”
Referring to how both she and Rubio had served on intelligence committees in the House and Senate, Demings said that if China acts to take over Taiwan, the U.S. must respond.
Rubio said that every major anti-China proposal had been his own legislation, to the point of being sanctioned. Jokingly, he said he was upset that he’d had to cancel his vacation to Wuhan.
“All kidding aside, the 21st century will be defined by the relationship between the United States and China,” Rubio said. “We wasted 20 years thinking that once China got rich and prosperous like us, but we woke up into a world where they don’t want to be like us, they want to replace us. We made a mistake, number one, we allowed American manufacturing to leave this country and go to China. So today, they own the manufacturing capacity, 88% of pharmaceuticals come from there.”
Rubio said his legislation would help bring manufacturing back to the U.S., and that America’s military had to defeat China’s military systems instead of having the Pentagon “produce videos on the proper use of pronouns,” instead of “how to blow up aircraft carriers.”
Demings said the U.S. needed to hold China accountable, and that Taiwan’s sovereignty was protected.
“The senator can play national security expert all he wants, I know he needs that for his next presidential run…” Demings said.
Rubio responded and said he didn’t know what she meant by “play” since he was the Vice-Chairman of the intelligence committee and previous chairman, but that holding China accountable is a talking point and a “great banner, it’s a good bumper sticker” but that America must be fixed before it can hold China accountable.
Demings rebutted, saying Rubio had voted against the CHIPS Act, which would help America be independent for manufacturing.
Then both candidates delivered closing remarks. Rubio focused on his record of protecting veterans and helping American families and businesses, while Demings referenced her time as a member of law enforcement, her time in the U.S. House, and said that only in America was that life possible.