Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took turns at the podium at a Thursday morning breakfast on out-of-control spending that took on strong shades of 2016.
Cruz spoke first at the Concerned Veterans for America Defend and Reform series event, setting the stage for a morning of campaign-style speeches preceding a panel talking about sequestration, entitlement reform and defense spending.
The Texas senator, after quipping “each of you tomorrow is going to be audited by the IRS,” jumped right into Ronald Reagan quotes and reflected on the former president’s philosophy during the Cold War: “Peace through strength is what Reagan saw so brilliantly,” he said.
“Economic growth is foundational to every other issue we have in America,” Cruz said, praising the Reagan virtues of “moral clarity and economic strength.”
On the former, Cruz criticized the Obama administration over its handling of Egypt. “What a sad, sad statement when people living under a radical Islamist oppressive government see the U.S. as siding with their oppressors,” he said.
Calling regulators “locusts,” Cruz nonetheless said “it is my hope that leaders in Washington in both parties… will stop the partisan bickering” and arrive at solutions to growing debt.
Introducing Rubio, The Weekly Standard’s Fred Barnes said “in my view, he is the future of the Republican Party.”
Rubio naturally started the speech with a bottled water joke, which has been a constant in his repertoire since his hasty sip during the State of the Union response. “Two bottles of water — this is a bit much,” he quipped at the podium supply.
Like Cruz, Rubio focused heavily on American exceptionalism, with an injection of extra fervor and swings usually reserved for the campaign trail.
The Obama administration, Rubio charged, is trying to “rob us of everything that has made us exceptional and unique.”
“These are the ideas of the old world,” he said. “These are the tried and failed ideas that have never worked in any country that has tried it.”
“What we have with this administration is a deep philosophical disagreement that cannot be bridged,” Rubio continued. “Look at the agenda they have chosen — instead of getting control of debt they focus on getting control of guns.”
The Florida Republican said he will not vote for a continuing resolution — the regular stopgap measures that fund the government in the absence of a budget — “unless it defunds Obamacare.”
“We should refuse to raise the debt limit by one single cent,” he said.
Still, Rubio argued, “we should not simply be the anti-debt party; we should be the pro-economic growth party.”
“We should be pursing pro-growth policies like serious tax reform, which I don’t believe this president will ever do.”