U.S. Senator Marco Rubio-Senate Floor Speech
February 11, 2015
Senator Marco Rubio: “I wanted to touch on two topics. The first is the President today has submitted a request for authorization of use of force with regards to ISIL or ISIS, as some call it. And I wanted to comment briefly about it. First, I think it’s good news the President has made that submission. And I think he’s right when he says the country is stronger when it acts both Congress and the President together.
“I would say there is a pretty simple authorization he could ask for, and it would read one sentence. And that is: We authorize the President to defeat and destroy ISIL, period. And that’s, I think, what we need to do.
“Now, I look forward to reading through his submission. I understand it contains a time limitation, it does not contain geographic limitations. It contains some language that supposedly is going to make people feel more comfortable about the use of ground troops.
“But I want to point out that it’s an authorization to use force that has limitations built into it are really quite unprecedented. We did some research earlier today and found the Congressional Research Service informed us that there really are only two previous authorizations that have limited the president in terms of the force to be used and the duration of the conflict. One was in 1983 in Lebanon, and the other one was in 1993 in Somalia. And both of those were U.N. peacekeeping missions, and so it made sense to limit, to that peacekeeping mission, the use of force.
“But it appears that never before, and certainly in modern history, has the Congress of the United States authorized the President to take on and defeat an enemy, but has done so with limitations on the time or the geography or anything of this nature. I think that’s an important point for us to understand because under no circumstances can ISIL, can ISIL stay. What we need to be authorizing the President to do is to destroy them and to defeat them, and allow the Commander-in-Chief, both the one we have now and the one who will follow, to put in place the tactics, the military tactics necessary to destroy and defeat ISIL.”
“This group needs to be defeated. I wish we had taken this group on earlier. I wish, in fact, that we had gotten involved in the conflict in Syria earlier and equipped moderate rebel elements, non-jihadist rebel elements on the ground so that they would have been the most powerful force there. The President failed to do that in a timely fashion, and as a result, a vacuum was created and that vacuum was filled by this group who has attracted foreign fighters from all over the world to join their ranks. And now we’re dealing with this problem. But I would argue better late than never. Had we dealt with this two years ago or a year and a half ago, it wouldn’t have been easy, but it would have been easier. But I think it’s important to deal with it decisively now.
“We can debate the tactics, but ultimately it is the job of the Commander-in-Chief, in consultation with his military officials that surround him and advise him, to come up with the appropriate tactics to defeat the enemy. But for our purposes, it should be very straightforward – ISIL is the enemy. They need to be defeated. And we should authorize this President and future presidents to do what they can and what they must to defeat ISIL, and erase them from the equation.”
“I also want to take a moment now and talk a little bit about what’s happening in Venezuela. Tomorrow, February 12, will mark the one-year anniversary since students and others across Venezuela took to the streets in peaceful demonstrations, demanding a more accountable government and a better future than the current one, which is corrupt, incompetent and is providing no leadership to the country. By the way, tomorrow also marks the one-year anniversary since the Venezuelan government under Nicolás Maduro responded with a violent crackdown that has left dozens of people dead, thousands injured and hundreds in jail as political prisoners.
“There have been at least 50 documented cases of torture by government forces on peaceful demonstrators, and more than 1,700 individuals await trial today in Venezuela before a judiciary that is completely controlled by Maduro’s government. This, by the way, includes Leopoldo López who has been languishing in Ramo Verde prison for almost a year. In the year since people took to the streets demanding more of their government, more opportunities, more upward mobility, more accountability and more freedom, basic necessities have vanished from the shelves. One of the richest nations in the hemisphere, its economy is in shambles.
“Venezuela, by the way, is also plagued with one of the world’s highest murder rates. Rampant corruption related to state assets, a 57% inflation rate, a junk rating on the global bond market and unprecedented – as I pointed out to you a moment ago – unprecedented scarcity of goods as basic as toilet paper. In fact, lately, things have gotten so bad in Venezuela under Maduro that they are no longer just kidnapping people. As the Diario Las Americas, which is a newspaper in Miami, reported earlier this week people are now kidnapping dogs and other pets in Venezuela and holding them for ransom. That’s how bad things have gotten.
“Why is this happening? Why is the cradle of Latin American independence, a country blessed with oil and energy wealth, with the talented and hardworking people, why has this nation become a failed state? For starters, it’s because it’s modeling its economy under Cuba, which itself is a failed state. But second, for years, Venezuela has been in the grips of incompetent buffoons, one after another. First, it was Hugo Chávez. Now it’s Nicolás Maduro. And they have squandered the nation’s riches. And third, the country is being run by corrupt and criminal individuals. Just last week, reports came out again alleging that the Speaker of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, is himself a drug kingpin. And fourth, even with all the oil wealth Venezuela has squandered, it still possesses some of the largest oil reserves on the planet. But oil prices are dropping, and in a country like Venezuela where innovation and entrepreneurship are stifled, where wealth and power are concentrated in the government and in its cronies, the entire economy is the oil industry. 96% of Venezuela’s export revenues come from oil.
“So in December, I’m proud that the U.S. Senate and the House passed, and the President signed, a bill that sanctions human rights violators in Venezuela. It mandates that their assets be frozen and visa restrictions be placed upon them if they are involved in human rights violations. And that’s going to be critical moving forward, because as things get worse in Venezuela, more people will take to the streets and the National Guard in that country, which is nothing but armed thugs working on behalf of the Maduro government, will be tempted to crack down on people violently.
“And so our legislation would impose sanctions – visa sanctions and asset sanctions on individuals responsible for these human rights violations. The good news is the President has moved forward with some of these visa restrictions, and that is a very positive step. America should not be and cannot be the playground for Venezuela’s human rights violators. But the financial sanctions part of the bill are long overdue. They’re actually urgently needed because things are only going to get worse in Venezuela. People are only going to get more desperate. They are only going to speak out more. They are only going to demand freedom more.
“And I suspect, although I hope I’m wrong, that the response from the Venezuelan government will be more violence and more crackdown on the people of their own nation. And if God forbid once again they use lethal force against their own people, which is a right they have reserved for themselves, a right that the government has approved and given authority to the National Guard to use, we cannot simply stand by and watch as innocent people are killed or injured because the regime believes there will be no consequences.
“And so today I wanted to come here for a few moments and urge the President once again to do what I asked him to do in a letter last week, and that is not sit idly by on the Venezuelan sanction law he signed last year, but to use it. To use it immediately and to use it decisively. To make clear that the United States of America will not stand for the repression taking place in Venezuela, and that we will use the tools of our economy and of the power we’ve given the President to punish those responsible for committing human rights violations in Venezuela against the people of that great nation.”