Paul says he's willing to risk losing re-election to take on Social Security and Medicare

04/19/2011 09:02 AM

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, who filed paperwork last month to run for a second term in 2016, said he will continue to push to revamp Social Security and Medicare even if it means losing his seat.

“Many people for a long time have said, ‘It’s the third rail — if you touch it, you’ll never be re-elected.’ And my point is, is that I think the problems are serious enough that if the people in Kentucky don’t elect me, I’m willing to accept that,” he said in an interview Friday in Bowling Green. “I so far haven’t decided whether to run again.”

But Paul did file paperwork to open a re-election campaign account with the Federal Election Commission in early March.

Paul joined Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Mike Lee of Utah last week to propose changing Social Security for those younger than 55 so that they wouldn’t be eligible to retire until 70. And wealthier Americans would be responsible for paying more or all of their retirement costs, while poorer Americans would see their benefit levels unchanged.

The proposal is aimed at keeping Social Security solvent for 75 years, he said.

Paul told Pure Politics and the Associated Press that he plans to tackle Medicare restructuring next and will use a similar approach to require the wealthy to cover more of their own coverage.

But Paul disagreed with President Barack Obama that the highest earners also should be asked to pay more taxes as part of the solution to the nation’s debt problems.

“Can we ask those who have made more money to give up something on the receiving end? It’s much better to give up a little on the receiving end than to give up (through) taxes at this time,” he said.

Paul later said in an interview that “I don’t want them to have any more money” until government can show it is spending it responsibly.

“You don’t get an economy out of the tank by taxing rich people. Rich people are who we all work for,” Paul said.

Speaking to about 200 tea party supporters at a rally in Bowling Green on Friday, Paul criticized Congress for not including the military in cuts.

He later said last week’s vote by Congress was a “missed opportunity” to deal with the federal budget deficit and the mounting debt.

Paul, among the 19 Senators to vote against the budget for the rest of this fiscal year, said he will likely vote against raising the debt ceiling from the current level of $14.2 trillion.

As Paul shook hands with supporters Friday, Cheri Wilcox of Bowling Green approached him to tell him, “I’ll see you in the White House.”

“I don’t know about that,” Paul responded.

Paul later told reporters that he was still waiting to see what his father, Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, was going to do. The elder Paul, who ran in 2008, has filed a “testing the water account” for president, Politico first reported last week and has speaking events lined up in Iowa and other key primary states.

- Ryan Alessi

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