WASHINGTON -- Even if you follow Congress, you might not realize that Sen. Marco Rubio is the chairman of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee.
But the Florida Republican has been active with that part of his portfolio too, this week unveiling a chairman's mark for what would be the first full reauthorization and overhaul of the Small Business Administration in almost 20 years, and holding a field hearing on the role of small businesses in the Sunshine State's space industry.
"We view it as an opportunity not just to conduct oversight and our proper role to reauthorize, but also as an opportunity to modernize and sort of adjust the SBA to the 21st century needs of our country and to sharpen it as a tool that serves our national interest," Rubio said this week in his first interview about the small business legislation.
Among other provisions, it would seek to improve funding possibilities for research and development and advancement in new technology.
Rubio said that as he sees it, there has not been enough access to "patient capital" for investment in "the new industries, the new ideas that fuel sustainable, long-term growth, and it comes particularly concerning when it is not happening in sectors that are critical to our national security and our national economic security."
Friday's field hearing at Cape Canaveral focused on the role of small businesses in supporting the efforts to return humans to the moon and the eventual travel to Mars. In the interview, the senator noted that there should be lots of opportunities for small firms in Florida to serve as NASA contractors and and subcontractors for aerospace giants involved in the process, including Boeing.
"Since the 1960s, the Kennedy Space Center has served as the world's leading human spaceflight launch center," Rubio said in an opening statement for the hearing. "There is no place more appropriate, or more fitting, to mark the 50th anniversary of humanity's first steps on the moon than the place from which the Apollo 11 mission launched our brave American astronauts."
Earlier Friday, Rubio explained the significance to CQ Roll Call.
"When the shuttle program ended, there was deep concern that the community would collapse, and it went through some miserable years, but now it's growing by leaps and bounds," Rubio said. "That's going to create all kind of opportunities for small businesses,"
Rubio wants to focus on enhancing opportunities for small business to compete for contracts and in support of the aerospace and defense sectors.