Coming off their widely praised performances at Tuesday's GOP presidential debate, Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas and Marco Rubio of Florida seem primed to receive a boost in the polls.
Rubio and Cruz have a lot in common. They’re both first-term senators from the south, they’re both 44 years old and they’re both Cuban-American. They also have similar policy positions on several issues like Obamacare (repeal it), raising the federal minimum wage (against it) and normalizing relations with communist Cuba (no way). In fact, Rubio even told NBC News on Thursday that the two “share almost all the same views on the issues.”
But there's one big issue on which they're sparring: Immigration. Cruz is trying to brand Rubio – who authored a 2013 bipartisan immigration reform bill—as a proponent of amnesty. Meanwhile, Rubio is insisting that every GOP candidate has supported the legalization of undocumented immigrants. “Some of them define that as amnesty. I don’t,” he said.
But the candidates differ on more than just immigration. Here are three other places where they diverge:
Earlier this summer, President Obama’s trade agenda received a boost when the GOP-controlled Senate approved a measure to allow the White House to send trade deals to Congress for up-or-down votes (and avoid having potential filibusters or the threat of additional amendments). While Rubio voted in favor of the fast-track legislation, Cruz changed his mind at the last minute and was one of five Republicans who voted against it. Cruz called the bill a “corrupt” deal between GOP leaders and the White House.
The next trade issue to watch for is the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership among 12 countries that Obama is pushing. Rubio has sounded more open to the mega trade deal, with the caveat that “it has to be the right deal," while Cruz has expressed reservations about the agreement, which would cover roughly 40% of the global economy.
Rubio has called for a top individual income tax rate of 35% (down from the current 39.6%) – higher than other candidates but with the goal of financing a $2,500 child tax credit. He wants to collapse the existing seven tax brackets to three: 15%, 25% and 35%. His plan cuts rates for all businesses to no higher than 25% (from the current corporate rate of 35%).
Cruz has called for a single individual income tax rate of 10% on all income sources. He also wants to implement a 16% business flat tax, in addition to repealing the payroll tax, the estate tax and the alternative minimum tax. Oh, and he wants to abolish the Internal Revenue Service.
During Tuesday's debate, Cruz made a subtle jab at Rubio over his support for sugar subsidies. When talking about expensive federal programs he wants to get rid of, the Texas senator said, “Among them are corporate welfare, like sugar subsidies.”
Rubio has come under fire for his support for the taxpayer-funded program, which he has argued is a big job creator in Florida and even a matter of national security. Rubio is being backed by members of the Fanjuls, a major sugar producer in his home state.