Paul reaffirms opposition to earmarks, signs on to call to ban them

11/09/2010 05:43 PM

Republican U.S. Senator-elect Rand Paul denied Tuesday that he has softened his stance on earmarks, the technique used by lawmakers to tag money for specific programs and projects in their states.

Paul claimed he was misquoted by the Wall Street Journal in an article over the weekend. Michael Kaminski wrote on Nov. 6:

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. “I will advocate for Kentucky’s interests,” he says.

So you’re not a crazy libertarian? “Not that crazy,” he cracks.

Responding directly to that excerpt, Paul told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Tuesday evening, “I never said that” and that he has asked for a correction.

“I will not use the earmark,” he said.

The distinction Paul makes is that he would advocate for federal funding for Kentucky programs or projects during committee hearings and budget discussions but not use earmarks, which he said are often “stuck on in the dead of the night.”

It’s the process — not the outcome that to which Paul objects.

He took that to the next level Tuesday by singing on to a formal provision to ban earmarks. He joined Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolin and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, as well as incoming Senator Marco Rubio of Florida on the provision, which will be presented to the Republican Senate caucus next week.

“I am very encouraged that the Senate GOP conference will vote next week on this caucus-wide agreement to ban earmarks as well as commit to passing a balanced budget amendment,” Paul said in a statement. “Since there have been erroneous media reports on the subject in recent days, I wanted to be sure to correct the record. I will never earmark. Period.”

Paul went on to say in the statement that the fact that the vote will come up next week is first proof that tea party movement is affecting government already.

Later in his interview with Blitzer, Paul said he still favors extending the tax cuts from 2001 and 2003 even if it takes money away from the treasury. Spending must be cut, he said.

Paul, however, stepped gingerly around the question of whether he would vote to extend the debt ceiling from $14 trillion.

“It’s not that the emperor has no clothes, it’s that the emperor has no money,” he said. “I’m not going to Washington with this plan to shut down government or say we will no longer have the debt. We still have to make payments on our debt. And we have to honor our obligations. But we should not be adding to the debt.”

“That’s the big thing here — it’s not: can we get rid of a $14 trillion debt,” he added. “But could we get rid of a $2 trillion annual deficit? I think we could.”

Blitzer also asked Paul, a Bowling Green ophthalmologist, whether he will continue to practice once he joins the Senate. And he said he will ask the ethics committee whether he can continue. The Senate rules prohibit senators from earning other income beyond their congressional salaries.

- Ryan Alessi


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