Kentucky Senator Rand Paul believes the sequester and its $85 billion in spending cuts present a great political opportunity for Republicans. In an interview with WKU Public Radio Tuesday, Sen. Paul said as the March 1 deadline nears, more and more members of the GOP are starting to believe the sequester may be their best bet for getting significant spending cuts to become reality
According to Sen. Paul, Republicans "have the President where we want him. These spending cuts will occur automatically, without a Presidential signature, and without the Democrats in the Senate voting for it"
WKU Public Radio spoke with Sen. Paul about sequester politics, gun control, and America's appetite for a libertarian presidential candidate.
Here are some excerpts from our interview:
President Obama and Senate Democrats have said the sequester will have dire consequences for the country. They have said air-traffic control, military preparedness and emergency response would be degraded. Will the country be hurt if these spending cuts go through?
"I would call that histrionics. This is what comes forward every time we talk about reducing or slowing down the rate of growth of government. Everyone should realize that the sequester should not cut any money. So all the departments will have what they had last year."
"What happens is, it slows down the rate of growth. And when they say 'oh, we're going to turn the lights off in the White House, and we're going to close the Washington Monument", this is histrionics in order to get people hysterical, so that we don't have a reasonable debate."
"Cutting spending, even if it's just cutting the rate of spending, is absolutely necessary."
Do you think a deal to avoid the sequester will happen before March 1?
"I think the sequester will go through, that's my prediction. Now, even though there are Republicans complaining about it, you're seeing less and less of a complaint about it on the Republican side, and more and more of a realization that, for a change, we have the President where we want him. These spending cuts will occur automatically, without a Presidential signature, and without the Democrats in the Senate voting for it."
"So we actually have spending cuts, or--as I would like to call them--reductions in the rate of growth in spending. We have them automatically (with the sequester), and I think it would be foolish to let the President get back in to where he can expand spending and expand the debt further."
Following the school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, the issues of gun control and gun rights again came to the surface. Are there any limits on firearms you would support? For example, increasing data banks to prevent those with known psychological problems from buying guns, or a limit on the number of bullets a gun magazine could hold?
"I think the deaths at Newtown were a terrible tragedy, and I'm still sickened and saddened every time I see the families and parents who are coming forward who had kids who were killed in that."
"I don't know of any proposal that I've heard of yet that would have stopped that shooting. This was a crazy, homicidal maniac who got guns that were already registered--and somebody made a bad decision leaving them open where he could have access to them. But I don't of any law that would have prevented this terrible tragedy from happening."
"Now, what I would say is (we should look at) transfer of information. Many states are not providing enough information for background checks. And so anything we could get for the states to cooperate better with information, so if this person is known and is in a data bank...that we could get that into a background check, that's to some advantage. Some states are really complying with this, and some states haven't."
You say no law would have prevented the Newtown shootings. Even if that's so, wouldn't a limit on the size of magazines at least force a shooter to reload, and perhaps at least lower the death count in mass shootings like Newtown?
"I think the best likelihood of seeing a lower death count would have been if a principal had been armed, if they had had concealed carry, if a teacher had been armed and had concealed carry and a gun locked in a drawer."
"The killings at Virginia Tech took several hours, where the insane criminal was beating on the door. And they had plenty of time to have gotten into a locked drawer in their desk and gotten a weapon. So guns work in self-defense, also."
You've said in recent broadcast interviews that you feel the country is ready for more libertarian Republican philosophy. What do you see in this country that leads you to believe a candidate espousing libertarian ideas could win the electoral college, for example?
"I think when the Republicans start our nationally running for president, we're about minus 170 electoral votes. We're minus California, we don't win in Oregon or Washington, and we don't seem to win in New England. So we have two large sections of the country where we just aren't competitive."
"So we do need to think of a different strategy, maybe a different face, maybe different ideas."
You've also talked recently about expanding the appeal of the Republican party. You want the Republican party to be more libertarian. What would that look like?
"Some of the libertarian ideas that I think attract more people would be a strong national defense, but a less aggressive foreign policy. Meaning that we do need to defend our country, but we don't need to have large ground wars all around the world, all of the time. And I think a lot of young people realize that."
"In fact, a lot of people in the military realize that. If you talk to the young men and women who leave Ft. Campbell or Ft. Knox...these are brave men and women who do their duty, and do as they're told. But when they've done two or three tours over there, they're not excited about their fourth or fifth tour."
"I think also on some issues that affect young people...some young people make mistakes, get involved in drugs, do things they shouldn't do, which I'm not in favor of. But I'm also not in favor of locking them up and throwing away the key. There are a lot of federal laws on the books that have mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent crimes, such as drug possession."
"I think young people would like politicians who are a little more open-minded."
What would you say to a young person who can't get around Republican doctrine on issues like abortion, gay marriage, etc.?
"I think that the party is big enough for various opinions. So that's the first thing.
"So there may be young people, people in California or New England, who are less socially conservative than Republicans in the south and the southeast. We need to be a big tent that includes a lot of people, and they don't have to have the exact same opinion on this."
"Some of it would be federalism, in the sense that marriage has always been a state and local issue. So not every Republican thinks that marriage needs to be addressed at the federal level. I personally think it's a state and local issue, and ultimately I think it's a religious and personal issue. So there are varying opinions on this issues."