tv Sens. Coons Rubio CSPAN March 6, 2018 11:21am-11:42am EST
>> this morning house speaker kevin mccarthy announced the republican conference leadership briefing that the house will vote next week on the stop violence act. it's a bill that provides grants to train students, teachers, school officials and local law enforcement to prevent school violence. this, of course, in the wake of the span of school shootings. the house will be back at noon eastern for legislative business. we'll have live coverage here on c-span. until then speakers from this morning's aipac conference. >> throughout the week we heard from officials from both parties on the importance of a strong u.s.-israel relationship. today we're going to have two back-to-back interviews with members of the senate foreign relations committee. one from each side of the
aisle. ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming our first guest from the state of delaware, senator christopher coons. [applause] thanks for coming today. senator coons: thanks for aipac for great conference and a chance to join you again. [applause] >> senator coons, you just render from a trip to israel. we were talking backstage. it sounds like it was fascinating. you got to visit with prime minister netanyahu, visit the syrian border. what is your candid sense of the security situation coming away from the trip? senator coons: it was a great trip. senator lindsey graham and i led this trip. we had a chance to visit jordan and israel and in israel we spent four days looking at its security situation.
and i was truly struck in my eight years as a senator, i haven't seen an immediate security situation as threatening as today. think about it. we have isis still active, threatening both egypt and israel. gaza, we have hamas digging tunnels, preparing to fire rockets. in lebanon, we have hezbollah embedding tens of thousands of advanced munitions and rockets, threatening the north of israel, and we took a helicopter tour of all of this and got a briefing with a general, the deputy chief of staff of the i.d.f. in syria, a failed state where you got both isis still active and hezbollah, shiia militias, the irgc under a russian air cover. iran aggressively challenging israel and recently directly sending a drone into israeli airspace. it is important that we make clear that when iran and russia
challenges israel directly they are also challenging the united states. we need resolve. we need to stand together. [applause] >> you mentioned the trip was part of a bipartisan congressional delegation led by you and senator graham with several of your colleagues. in this incredibly partisan time, how important is it that israel remain a bipartisan issue and how possible do you think that is? senator coons: well, that's where you come from. frankly, keeping u.s. support for israel, american engagement with israel, not just on security issues but also innovation and technology and our shared values, it is absolutely essential. because there's so few things that bring us together in congress these days. we need to show the world that we can sustain a bipartisan commitment to israel to its security and to its rising as the only democracy in the middle east and our most vital
ally in the middle east. [applause] claire: we were talking backstage the delegation also traveled to jordan which, of course, has a critical and evolving relationship with israel. what were your takeaways from that part of the trip? senator coons: we had a remarkable dinner from king abdullah and heard from him. more economic concerns than i heard before. there's 650,000 syrian refugees in jordan and the downward pressure on their economy is remarkable. the i m.f. is pushing them to make difficult reforms and i think we need to do more to invest in jordan's economic stability. king abdullah represents a version of islam that is moderate. they are a counterterrorism partner to israel and the united states. and they are an island of stability in an otherwise chaotic region. i think we can do more to support jordan. [applause] claire: last night we heard from ambassador haley about u.s. efforts to combat anti-israel bias at the u.n.,
and i though this is an issue you care deeply about. you and senator rubio, apparently you two work very well together, offered a letter -- authored a letter to the u.n. secretary general rooting out this anti-israel bias. what impact do you think that letter has? senator coons: my friendship with marco is that we're on the foreign relations committee together. that's nice. that's important. but we're also on the appropriations committee, the specific one that funds the united nations. and so our communications with the secretary general that have pressed for more transparency, more efficiency, and serious efforts to combat the anti-israel bias in the u.n. has produced some early results. our ambassador, nikki haley, has been a strong and capable and good leader in this part but we should be doing more to push back on anti-israel bias and frankly anti-semitism in the united nations. [applause] claire: and you mentioned that you and senator rubio work well together. you also introduced
legislation, of course, since the port of security assistance to israel and expanded u.s.-israel cooperation in a number of fields. can you tell us a little bit more about that initiative and why you decided to lead the effort? senator coons: well, having just come back from this rivetting trip to israel where we got to meet with apple bass door friedman, with the minister of defense, with the prime minister, we got the security briefing i just described, i thought it was important to act. you know, the theme of this year's conference is "choose to lead," and i think it's important we pull together in a bipartisan way and demonstrate congress has israel's back. every bit as much as the president does. so it's a bill that would legislatively authorize -- [applause] senator coons: the 10-year m.o.u. at $3.3 billion and $500 million a year in missile system support. i view that as a floor, not a ceiling. [applause]
senator coons: the rubio-coons bill will make sure israel has access to precision-guided munitions and to ammunition and other munitions should conflict come. it also ensures we are more tightly coordinating on critical areas like cybersecurity and making sure we sustain israel's qualitative military edge and it continues partnerships between the united states and israel that teach about our values. other initiatives that show the world how we promote peace and promote development together. so between the mfment o.u. and security package, between support for precision-guided munitions, loan guarantees and our values partnerships i think i just happen to think the rubio-coons bill is a great idea. but this is where you come in. because if you're going to choose to lead, it is my hope, my expectation that in your time today coming to the hill
you will help us secure more co-sponsors. as of right now rubio-coons has two. my hunch is after you get to work on capitol hill today, we'll have not 20, not 30, not 50 but 70 or 80 co-sponsors of this bill. we need you. please come do the work and lead. [applause] claire: senator, what do you think once everybody gets there, what do you think the prospects are? are you optimistic? senator coons: i'm optimistic because i think the security situation is dire. i think the values that unite us are important and enduring, and i think the prospect of our working together through the entire pro-israel community and across the entire range of members of congress to demonstrate to the world that when iran tests israel like it never has before, when russia provides air cover for that testing, when hezbollah and hamas threaten from north and south that we will continue to be the most reliable ally
israel could possibly have and that we will show that in a democracy we can come together to support this through citizen advocacy. [applause] claire: senator coons, thank you for your time. ladies and gentlemen, let's give him another hand. thank you. claire: our next guest is a senior member of the senate foreign relations committee from across the aisle. ladies and gentlemen, please welcome florida senator marco rubio. [applause]
rubio, : senator thank you for being here. senator rubio: thanks for doing this. thanks for having me. i haven't spoke to the whole group before. claire: this is a big group. this is a sea of faces. senator rubio: seven years. claire: you've been busy. senator rubio, you have a strong track record of support of israel and you've had that throughout your political career. where does that passion come from? senator rubio: well, three things i point to. america should be a friend of our friends. and certainly standing with our allies is important. israel is the strongest ally we have in the region and one of the strongest in the world. the second is i think israel stands for everything we hope the middle east will become -- a free enterprise, democracy that's pro-american. if we had more countries like that in the middle east, our lives will be a little bit simpler. and the third is israel has a unique purpose unlike any other nation on earth that was created for a very specific
purpose. in the aftermath of the holocaust to ensure there would never be -- there would be a homeland for the jewish people and to be able to defend themselves when anti-semitism shows itself. claire: i spoke that the two of you authored the letter to the u.n. to root out anti-semitism bias in the u.n. the letter was signed by all of your colleagues, all 100 senators. in the era of such partisan politics, what do you think made that kind of bipartisan agreement so possible? senator rubio: i used to joke, we couldn't get 100 senators to honor santa claus but we got 100 people onboard on israel. look, it's a testament to the work of this organization and so many others. it needs to remain that way. but i would caution you -- i would caution you that today's congress is a reflection of 20 and 30 -- the work of 20 or 30 years.
you have to forward project 20 years, 15 years from now the congressional delegations are going to be made up of the young men and women that are in colleges or graduating from universities. so if you want to see the future of this cause, you have to look there. and i'm deeply concerned about what's happening in many american college campuses and the sort of embedded anti-semitism that we see. [applause] senator rubio: and hopefully -- so we need to tackle that. claire: well, you -- secretary of defense mattis said last month that everywhere we find trouble in the middle east you always find iran engaged. i had a conversation yesterday with an admirable who said the same thing. this should be our top focus in the middle east. from your perspective, is america doing enough to push back? senator rubio: first, they are trying to drive us out of the renal and doing it with a combination of shiia militias and partnering with different countries. you see them reaching out to the kurdish and turks and
supporting assad and the work they do with hezbollah. you see them everywhere in the -- they are taking advantage of the gulf risk. so it's a strategic effort on their part to drive the united states out of the region and become the sort of predominant regional power. so every single one of those issues are the ones we have to confront. we cannot be pushed out of the yishey conversation. we cannot be pushed out of the syrian solution and whatever ultimately happens there with stability. we got -- and then of course it's important for us to make clear to the world that our relationship with israel is not just symbolic. it doesn't move with the end of an embassy which we supported. it is the clear notion that the united states will support israel militaryly, financially, economically to make sure they can withstand anything that comes their way as you see hezbollah create these capabilities and lebanon in terms of their ability to hit israel. claire: and do you think on capitol hill and the administration there is an understanding what you just articulated?
are you optimistic about that sort of focus? senator rubio: i think there is an understanding we want to be supportive of israel. i think we have some work to do to put together the comprehensive approach thaunses all these issues are interlinked, that iran's efforts in iraq are ultimately tied to their ability to encircle and threaten israel. be it through proxies or directly. i think we need to do more work on that front. we can't view the iranian issue in isolation. their ultimate goal is domination of the region and that includes going right after israel even if it's using hezbollah out of lebanon and -- or increasingly syria. so we need to tie those things together. they're interrelated. claire: this takes me to the next question. we were talking, senator coons and i, the new legislation about supporting security assist to israel but expanded u.s.-israel cooperation in a number of fields. i assume this is why you think this was such a critical effort, right? senator rubio: it is.
senator coons said something. it's the floor, not the ceiling. but it's important it be there congressionally because administrations come and go. if it's in law and the next 10 years, the next administration, whatever party that's in, six years from now, whenever that will inherit that conversation and the u.s. has a legal commitment, not just moral, but a legal obligation to come to israel's assistance and continue to provide help. [applause] claire: now, senator coons said everybody in this room should head to capitol hill to show support. senator rubio: yeah. for our bill. right. claire: what's your view of the prospects, are they good? senator rubio: they're good. your work will be better. there's lots of issues. there are thousands and thousands of bills. sometimes it's the process of showing up and saying will you please sign on because if we can get 60, 70,80 co-sponsors given how tight the floor is, these are one of the things we
can do without a vote on it. the unanimous consent process. the more co-sponsors we have and more priority you make it on the hill the higher the prospects are. we see feignish line that's not in the far future but today is a key day in that direction and we need your help so go do that today. [applause] claire: now, spooking of other legislation, you also authored with legislation with senator shaheen to ratchet up sanctions on hezbollah. it sounds as though negotiations are under way in a compromise bill. can you update on the status? senator rubio: this is 2.0. we did 1.0 three years ago. hezbollah adjusted and now we're adjusting. i want to leave you with one thought. the risk that hezbollah poses out of lebanon is severe. their capabilities today and what the iranians have supplied them with allow them to manufacture their own rockets and potentially try to overwhelm israel's defenses at some point. so it is important we do everything we can to cut off
any financial streams that they are using to fund this activity and that's why 2.0 is so important. so after you talk about rubio-coons talk about this one as well. although this one has passed. we're just trying to reconcile the differences. i think the prospects are very high we can get that done. claire: that's terrific. [applause] claire: you know, while the administration has included full funding for security assistance to israel in its budget request, they continue to see big cuts in overall international affairs spending. you have been a vocal supporter of robust international affairs spending. why do you think this kind of funding in general is so important? how do you make that case to your constituents? senator rubio: well, the first thing, everyone take a deep breath, no congress has taken the president's budget on this and passed it. claire: this is true. senator rubio: number two, on international assistance, i'm all for accountability. i do not want american dollars flowing to countries who then turn around and use it against us or against our values.
by the same token it is international assistance is less than 1% of our overall budget. it's not charity. it's a direct investment in national security and strengthening institutions and partner nations and frankly it saves us money in the long term. if we invest it correctly. so we are continuing to be vigorous and supportive of it. claire: due feel when you talk about this to your constituents at home they understand that? senator rubio: a lot of people think foreign aid is 30%, 40% of our budget. when you explain it's less than 1%. outside the middle east, south korea used to be a foreign aid. today they are the ninth or 10th largest economy and pro-american democracy. colombia is our strongest ally in south america. all the direct result of u.s. investment and i think we need to continue to look for opportunities to do that around the world in addition to continuing to invest in our existing alliances. [applause] claire: finally, this is a chance for you to offer some more advice to the room.
we've seen a lot of turnover in congress in recent years and yesterday a great friend of the u.s.-israel relationship, senator cochran, chairman of the senate appropriations committee, advanced his retirement. what sort of impact does it have on your work and what advice do you have for aipac on how to build support with new members of congress? senator rubio: well, a lot of members of congress, they come from the state level, do not have a deep level of expertise on foreign policy. when i came from the state level i knew a little bit more about it just because i live in miami. foreign policy, domestic policy in miami. in general -- people are chuckling. it really is. but in general, it's not they don't care about foreign policy. it's just from someone that's been a governor or someone that's been a state senator, it's not an issue that they're aware of. one of the things that's most effective what aipac does, it isn't someone from halfway across the country that's talking to you. someone is working with you
that's from your community and from your state that actually has a stake not just in the future of this country and of the world but also in your community. and those relationships are critical. and they're really important. so i encourage you to do that, especially with new members who i think are going to be inclined to be supportive but may not be fully aware of all the things that are out there and that are said that are not accurate about the state of affairs in the region. they are about the differences between the different parties involved in the region. so it really is important. early on in a member's career to try to get in front of them and state it with facts, historical data that backs up a strong u.s.-israel alliance. claire: i hope you've all been taking notes. senator rubio, thank you so much for your time. let's give him another round of applause. busy man also. really appreciate you. senator rubio: thank you. thank you very much. ♪ >> good morning, aipac. and thank you for