Rand Paul, the next Republican US senator from Kentucky, has done an about-face on earmarks even before taking office.
In an interview published over the weekend with the Wall Street Journal, Paul signaled a major backtrack on a core campaign promise: cutting federal earmarks. The promise is a hallmark of Republican candidates of all stripes, who advocate that a smaller government is in the national interest and that money doled out for special progress is tantamount to backroom dealing.
“In a bigger shift from his campaign pledge to end earmarks, he tells me that they are a bad “symbol” of easy spending but that he will fight for Kentucky’s share of earmarks and federal pork, as long as it’s doled out transparently at the committee level and not parachuted in in the dead of night,” Paul told the Journal for an interview published Saturday.
“I will advocate for Kentucky’s interests,” he added.
The comments markedly diverge from a promise still live on his campaign website, titled, “Earmark ban coming?”
“Rand Paul has made a ban on wasteful earmark spending in Washington D.C. one of the key points of his campaign,” Paul’s campaign wrote on his website. “He has supported Sen. Jim DeMint’s vocal support for an earmark ban and he supports news that House Democrats are even coming around on the idea of a partial ban.”
“The Tea Party movement is an effort to get government under control,” Paul is quoted as saying on his site. “I’m running to represent Kentuckians and to dismantle the culture of professional politicians in Washington. Leadership isn’t photo-ops with oversized fake cardboard checks. That kind of thinking is bankrupting our nation. Senator DeMint understands that and has taken action to stop it.”
Paul’s predecessor, Sen. Jim Bunning, requested $21 million in earmarks in his last two years in Congress alone, including more than $10 million for a “Laser Phalanx” in 2010 and “Next Generation Phalanx with Laser Demo” in 2009. (Bunning was recently in the news for holding up an unemployment bill.)
The Journal interview also provides more insight into Paul’s thinking, and how his approach to government differs from his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), a veteran congressmember in the House.
“Father and son, age 47, have different styles,” the Journal’s Matthew Kaminski writes. “Asked what he wanted to do in Washington in a Wednesday morning television interview, the senator-elect said that his kids were hoping to meet the Obama girls. He has made other concessions to the mainstream. He now avoids his dad’s talk of shuttering the Federal Reserve and abolishing the income tax.”
Kaminski also adds that Paul jokes that Congress shares similarities with the Soviet Politburo, the executive committee that ran communist Russia.
“Next on his docket are term limits,” Kaminski adds. “He jokes that the Soviet Politburo saw more turnover than Capitol Hill. He also wants to “sunset” all regulations until approved by Congress. ‘Let them write all the regulations they want,’ he says. ‘They do anyway, but in two years they’re gone unless they get voted on by Congress.’”
The Republican senator-elect, despite supporting earmarks for his home state, told ABC News’ Christiane Amanpour that he would support slicing military spending.
“You need … compromise on where the spending cuts come from,” Paul told Amanpour. “Republicans traditionally say, oh, we’ll cut domestic spending, but we won’t touch the military. The liberals — the ones who are good — will say, oh, we’ll cut the military, but we won’t cut domestic spending.”
“Bottom line is, you have to look at everything across the board,” he added.
“Where, then? Military? Would you cut the military?” Amanpour asked.
“Yes. Yes,” Paul replied.
With earlier reporting by David Edwards.