Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) has always been a bit of an outlier in the Republican Party. Like his quirky father, Ron Paul, Rand’s politics are motivated first and foremost by Libertarian principles of individual liberty, states rights, and opposition to the concentration of wealth and power in Washington and Wall Street.
The Paul family’s anti-war and anti-Federal Reserve positions have been a constant source of conflict with the mainstream of the Republican Party, and they’ve been known to speak out against military spending, tax loopholes for big business, and other GOP priorities, often to the party’s detriment.
Sen. Paul’s red state colleagues generally endure those eccentricities, however, because his Libertarian sensibilities also compel him to support Republican efforts to cut debts, end deficits, kill entitlement programs, an slash funding for virtually every other government program they can lay their hands on.
Paul’s deficit hawk principles came in handy during Barack Obama’s presidency, when Republicans citied the massive debt legislation like ObamaCare and bailout packages created as reasons for their opposition to Democratic legislation.
“The kind of spending and debt that Democrats are engaged in,” Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said in 2010, “is like nothing this country has ever seen. And it threatens not only the livelihoods of our children: it threatens our national security and the very safety net Democrats claim they want to protect.”
Fast forward nearly 8 years and one president, and suddenly Sen. McConnell and most of the lawmakers in his party don’t seem so concerned about deficits, debt, or the frivolous spending proposed by President Trump, including his ‘big beautiful wall.’
When Sen. McConnell struck a deal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and President Trump earlier this week to fund the government for two years, most Republicans in the House and Senate fell in line. But not Rand Paul.
“I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits,” he said in an unexpected speech on the floor of the Senate Thursday afternoon.
“I can’t in all good honesty, in all good faith, just look the other way just because my party is now complicit in the deficits.”
Later he added that the Republican bill is “the very definition of intellectual dishonesty, the very definition of hypocrisy.”
Senator Paul’s speech and amendment maneuver late Thursday threaten to scuttle the deal reached by McConnell and Schumer just hours before the government is set to shut down.
While his 11th hour speech looks and sounds principled and heroic on the surface, Democrats aren’t fooled. Just a few weeks ago, Republicans pressed ahead with a tax cut bill that created windfalls for corporations and Wall Street that will require trillions in new debt to fund. Senator Paul – the same Senator Paul who’s playing the role of deficit hawk martyr today – gleefully supported that bill.
Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweeted the ultimate clap back Thursday while Sen. Paul was still speaking on the senate floor.
Props to Rs who just voted for tax cut that creates $1.5 TRILLION in debt who are now complaining the budget deal increases the debt. Takes guts. Respect.
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) February 8, 2018
Ouch. To quote Senator Paul himself, this is “the very definition of intellectual dishonesty, the very definition of hypocrisy.”