WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is casting himself as the youthful, forward-thinking presidential candidate of the future, a bold reformer awash with new ideas on how best to usher in a new American century.
The message is an overt criticism of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who Rubio says offers nothing more than a "time machine to yesterday" with a vision he calls "narrow and shortsighted."
Yet many of the Florida Republican's own proposals, outlined in a speech he delivered in Chicago on Tuesday, include ideas that Rubio and others have put forth before. That's not to say that the senator isn't bringing anything new to the table, but he is also touting his old proposals to draw a contrast with Clinton and, more implicitly, Republican rival Jeb Bush, another member of a political dynasty.
Right off the bat, Rubio proposed to "cut our corporate tax rate to be competitive with the average of 25 percent for developed nations." He promised to "establish a territorial tax system," and to "allow immediate, 100 percent expensing for businesses." And he said he would "put a ceiling on the amount U.S. regulations" cost the economy through regulatory reform.
The proposals are standard fare among lawmakers who have been calling for tax reform for years. In 2012, GOP presidential candidates Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum both supported the expensing of business capital. However, Rubio's tax plan, which he introduced with Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) earlier this year, ran into opposition from an unexpected quarter -- other Republicans. As New York Magazine's Jonathan Chait wrote in April, the tax cut Rubio proposed is "so gargantuan that nobody in the party actually believes it."
The senator also promised to reallocate more of the government's wireless spectrum for commercial use by forcing federal agencies to sell their frequencies to the highest bidder. He introduced a bill to do this in the Senate last year, attracting some bipartisan support. Congress has debated how to make more of the spectrum more widely available through incentives, but Rubio does appear to be one of the only lawmakers who supports doing so forcibly.
Meanwhile, Rubio said he would reform the nation's legal immigration system "to make it skill- and merit-based rather than family-based." Immigration activists worry such a focus would break up immigrant families. But the idea has roots in the sweeping, bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate that Rubio helped draft in 2013 -- and later renounced after taking heat from conservatives who opposed the bill's proposed path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The legislation would have created a merit-based visa program that would score each applicant on criteria such as employment status, geographic location and family considerations. It would have also increased the number of merit-based visas and green cards issued to keep the highest-skilled workers in the U.S.
The second half of Rubio's speech on job creation centered on ways to reform the country's education system. But most of the proposals rehashed his 2014 plan for higher education. The senator promised to bust the higher education "cartel" within his first 100 days in office by introducing "choice and competition" into the accreditation process. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), a former Republican vice presidential nominee, proposed a similar overhaul in 2014. Like President Barack Obama, Rubio is also in favor of allowing students to get credentials outside of traditional universities and colleges.
Rubio said he would "make student loans more manageable by making Income-Based Repayment automatic for all graduates, so the more they make, the faster they pay back their loans; and the less they make, the less strain their loans cause." Former Rep. Tom Petri (R-Wis.) advocated the idea of automatic income-based loan repayment as far back as 1983.
The Florida senator also said he would expand apprenticeship programs to "provide on-the-job training and help standardize skills by allowing students to learn methods from experienced workers and spread them throughout the industry." Rubio already spoke about expanding apprentice programs last year, and Hillary Clinton called for a tax credit to benefit companies that hire people as apprentices last month. In his State of the Union address last year, Obama called for similar incentives to expand apprenticeship programs, and there is currently a bipartisan effort in Congress to do so.
Similarly, Rubio's proposal to require lending institutions to "tell students how much they can expect to earn with a given degree before they take out the loans to pay for it" already made headlines when he introduced a bill to do so alongside Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) in 2013. Ditto for Rubio's "Student Investment Plan," which he unveiled last year and which would allow students to partner with corporate investors for tuition relief.
The new sheen fooled some news outlets, generating a wave of positive coverage for the candidate on Tuesday. "Marco Rubio has a wild plan to have investors pay for college and make money off students' future earnings," read a headline on Business Insider. Such a tactic, if it continues to be rewarded, may be just what the candidate needs in order to distinguish himself among a very crowded -- and more experienced -- Republican presidential field.