Many were shocked at news Thursday that Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) had proposed a senate amendment that would increase defense spending. Paul, who has long advocated for a smaller defense budget, proposed increasing defense spending to $696 billion via his amendment.
Earlier, fellow likely presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), along with Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), filed an amendment to increase defense spending to exactly that number.
There are differences between Paul’s and Rubio’s amendments. The biggest difference is that Rand Paul cut more than enough spending from domestic programs to pay for his defense increase. Rubio and Cotton simply boosted defense spending without offsetting those increases with cuts, this increasing the deficit and debt.
Rare asked Paul’s senior adviser, Doug Stafford, what Paul is trying to do with the amendment. Here’s how Stafford replied:
Senator Paul is trying to show how you can pay for the defense you want by proposing specific cuts.
Not everyone will agree with budget priorities, be they libertarian, conservative, Republican, Independent or Democrat. But they should be able to agree on a few simple ideas. First, that we should pay for the government we want. So that’s why Senator Paul proposed to pay for the increases that others were proposing.
Next, government should be constitutional: That’s why he proposed cuts that removed things from the federal jurisdiction that should be done by the states, like Education, or not at all, like corporate welfare.
Finally, it should be done with care to taxpayer dollars — and here is a good example of why it is important to look at everything someone is proposing, not simply one amendment.
Senator Paul is the Senate sponsor of Audit the Pentagon and has been a longtime proponent of cleaning up the DoD. He remains convinced this is necessary.
Stafford also pointed that Paul remains committed to balancing the budget in five years and that Thursday’s amendment was specifically intended to go side-by-side with other amendments filed by senators. Paul also remains committed to tax cuts and further budget cuts, said Stafford.
Rand Paul’s defense spending amendment was defeated 4-96 when it didn’t clear a procedural hurdle.
Among those voting against Paul’s amendment were Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz. Cruz announced his presidential campaign earlier this week.
Rubio’s amendment was also defeated 32-68 when it failed another “point of order.” Rubio’s amendment—that did not pay for defense spending increases with cuts elsewhere—was supported by Cruz.
Paul voted against it.
Among the 22 Republicans who voted against Rubio’s amendment were conservative stalwarts like Senators Mike Lee, Joni Ernst, David Vitter, Jeff Sessions and Tim Scott, and more moderate Senators such as Thad Cochran and Jeff Flake.
By forcing Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz to vote against his defense spending increase amendment, which cut spending, Rand Paul went on the offensive on an issue that is seen as a weakness.
Paul forced Senators Rubio and Cruz to choose between fiscal conservatism and increasing defense spending. In rejecting Paul’s amendment, both Cruz and Rubio prioritized increasing Pentagon spending above fiscal responsibility.
On Thursday, Paul attempted to give every Republican who voted for the Rubio-Cotton amendment every dollar of what they asked for in defense spending—but they had to actually pay for it.
Paul said before the vote on Thursday, according to The Hill, “It is irresponsible and dangerous to continue to put America further into debt even for something we need.” “We need national defense, but we should pay for it,” Paul added.
“America does not project power from bankruptcy court,” Paul said.
The Republicans who rejected Paul’s amendment chose to add to the deficit and debt instead of paying for new spending. According to Stafford, that was the entire point of Paul’s amendment.
Paul, Cruz and Rubio were all elected to the U.S. Senate with strong support from the tea party movement, which began as a grassroots conservative reaction to runaway government spending and debt.