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Rubio envisions smaller role for government in 'War on Poverty'

Sen. Marco Rubio on Wednesday proposed ending the federal government's role in most anti-poverty programs and sending the money to states, lamenting in a lengthy speech that that America is "not the land of opportunity for all."

The Florida Republican made the speech on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty -- and as issues of inequality are coming to the forefront of national political debate.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks about poverty Wednesday, marking the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty" speech.

"America is still the land of opportunity for most, but it is not a land of opportunity for all. If we are to remain an exceptional nation, we must close this gap in opportunity," Rubio told a small audience of supporters and reporters at the Lyndon B. Johnson Room at the U.S. Capitol. Johnson, who served as a senator before he was elected president, announced his War on Poverty in 1964.

Rubio has made social mobility a key theme of most of his Senate floor appearances and many of his public appearances over the past year. Appealing to working Americans was a central difficulty for the Republican Party in 2012, and Rubio is widely considered a potential presidential candidate in 2016.

To tackle the problem, Rubio on Wednesday proposed creating what he called a "Flex Fund" with the money that currently pays for anti-poverty initiatives.

Rubio also proposed replacing the earned income tax credit with a "federal enhancement" for working Americans. Rubio's proposal would provide people with a monthly check to supplement a low income -- "to make the job a more enticing alternative to collecting unemployment insurance," he said. 

Rubio also suggested that food stamps should be controlled by the states instead of funded by the federal government and said that the federal government should play some role in encouraging marriage as a way to alleviate poverty.