Although nearly every presidential candidate at Florida’s Sunshine Summit on Saturday in Orlando was talking about getting stronger on defense in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Paris on Friday night, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul was the exception to that doctrine.
Speaking about the dangers of higher federal debt, Paul said that there are some in the GOP who say it doesn’t matter what the money is for, even if it’s for the military.
“If we’re going to spend a trillion dollars of new money that’s going to be added to the debt, does that make us stronger or weaker?” he asked, echoing the attacks he made on Florida Senator Marco Rubio in last week’s debate in Milwaukee.
Paul also took on Rubio for ignoring requests from him (and all other Republicans, he said) in adding an amendment to the 2013 comprehensive immigration reform bill. Paul said his amendment would have added more scrutiny to foreigners who visit, study or immigrate to America.
“Your Senator in fact, opposed me on this,” Paul said. “I tried to pass something that I think was a conservative proposition to the immigration bill.”
Paul elaborated on this notion with the media afterward, and said that Rubio’s “secret” agreement with New York Senator Chuck Schumer and other Democrats to block all GOP amendments to get the legislation passed is now well known. “That’s going to alarm some conservatives, ” he warned, adding that an amendment to check annually on how secure the border from Republicans was also rejected.
“I was always disappointed that Marco Rubio voted against that, and probably not that many people know that. But we’re in a presidential cycle now, and we want to make sure that every Republican across the country knows that he blocked conservative amendments to the immigration bill, and in particular, my amendment did provide more scrutiny on people who might be coming here to attack us.”
Paul emphasized that the U.S. spends more on defense than the next top 10 countries combined.
Paul’s speech in many ways wasn’t different from the one he delivered back in Sarasota this past winter, where he bashed Hillary Clinton on Benghazi, and criticized the U.S. State Department for what he says were misplaced priorities.
But Paul is reaching out now more to those fiscal hawks who can’t abide the $19 trillion in debt that the government has reached under Barack Obama. And it seems to be the prism that he looks at every issue, both foreign and domestic.
“I think that the debt is a great threat, I think it’s a threat to the very foundation of our country,” he said early on in his speech, eliciting a large round of applause. He expressed fears the further in debt we go, the more peril there is to the country’s future.
There is considerable question whether the Republican Party of 2015 — especially the day after Paris — is in the mood to hear such an emphasis on not spending more on the military.