Rand Paul offers his 'libertarian twist' on conservatism
MANCHESTER — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), one of several potential 2016 Republican presidential candidates in town for today's "Freedom Summit" in Manchester, says he would not vote for the Paul Ryan budget plan that passed the House earlier this week.
In an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader on Friday, Paul also repeated his frequent observation that "the same old cookie-cutter, Chamber of Commerce Republican may not be what we need to win anymore."
And that, he said, "actually encourages people like myself who say, you know what, maybe conservatives need a little bit of a libertarian twist or maybe the Republican party needs a little bit of a libertarian twist to help them have access to new constituencies."
The junior senator from Kentucky sidestepped a question about how his political views differ from those of his father, Ron Paul, the former Presidential candidate who frequently chastised his Republican opponents and became a counter-cultural hero to the college generation.
But Paul said he understands his father's appeal with younger voters.
"I think young people see through hypocrisy," he said. "My dad exemplified and portrayed genuineness — almost to a fault."
"He didn't beat around the bush and he told you, whether it was politic or not, ... what he thought."
The younger Paul did a bit of that himself when he discussed the budget plan by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that narrowly passed the House on Thursday. Twelve Republicans and all the Democrats voted against it.
Paul said the Ryan plan includes "a little bit of fudging on the numbers" to get to a balanced budget in 10 years.
"He repeals Obamacare but still assumes Obamacare taxes, and I'm not sure that's honest accounting," he said. "He also still assumes some cost-shifting in Medicare that was part of Obamacare."
Paul also criticized the two-year budget deal reached last December by Ryan and Patty Murray, D-Wash., who chairs the Senate budget committee. "It was a coalition in the wrong direction," he said.
If Ryan's budget comes up for a vote in the Senate — which he said won't happen under Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's "iron fist" — Paul said, "I'll probably vote no, simply because I think we need to do better."
And, he said, "I might be a problem for the Republicans if we take over (the Senate in 2014), but there's going to be more than me. There'll be two or three of us at least, maybe five of us, who may not vote for 10- or 20-year balances."
Congress needs to pass budgets that balance within five years, he said. To get there, Paul favors doing "some drastic things," such as getting rid of the departments of Commerce, Education and Energy.
He also calls for a "penny plan" that cuts federal government spending by the equivalent of one percent across the board.
Paul said he agrees with the recent Supreme Court ruling on campaign financing, which struck down total limits on how much individuals can contribute to candidates in federal elections.
He's "not a big fan" of public financing, which he said favors incumbents and rich candidates, who can afford to pour their own money into a race.
But he does have concerns about the so-called "revolving door" between government and private industry, and favors limits on lobbying and contributions for anyone who contracts with the federal government.
In February, Paul filed a class-action lawsuit against the Obama administration, challenging the constitutionality of the National Security Agency's collection of Americans' phone records.
He said he hopes the Supreme Court takes up the case. "It's an extraordinary thing to think that we're collecting every phone record in the country," he said.
"I'm not against spying ... I would just say we ought to spy on our enemies instead of Americans."
And he's concerned about what other kinds of "business records" may be collected, such as credit card records.
"My whole life is on my VISA card," he said. "That should be private and it really should be protected by the Fourth Amendment."
So how will Sen. Paul decide whether he's a candidate for President in 2016?
"Quite a bit of it is discussing with my family the undertaking and the ordeal and what it does to a family," said Paul, who is married and has three children, ages 15, 18 and 21.
He said it's "premature" to make such a decision before the 2014 mid-term election.
Asked what he thinks of his former Senate colleague Scott Brown, who officially announced on Thursday that he's running for Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen's seat, Paul called Brown "a very amiable guy."
"He gets along well with people and was well-liked in the Senate," he said.
But he added, "I think I'm going to leave the primary up to the voters of New Hampshire, and let them vote," he said.
He's staying out of a lot of primary contests this year, Paul said. "Because I may one day be asking all of the voters to analyze me, and if I were, I think it helps not to have been too involved in primaries."
There is one candidate he has no desire to run against.
Informed that new "Ron Paul for President" bumper stickers have begun appearing in the first-primary Granite State, the younger Paul observed with a smile:
"I hope I don't have to compete with that guy."