Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul opened his campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination Tuesday with a pledge to fight for greater liberties and smaller government. A look at where he stands on some issues:
A thorny issue for Paul. He sees himself as a “different kind of Republican” and has encouraged his party to abandon its fixation on “amnesty,” saying the concept has trapped Republicans from embracing compromise. Yet Paul has spent considerable time trying to block or undo immigration proposals offered by others. In 2013 he voted against an immigration overhaul pushed by Republican Sens. John McCain and Lindsey Graham. He also introduced legislation that sought to undo President Barack Obama’s executive orders to delay deportation of some immigrants in the country illegally. He likes to say Washington “can’t invite the whole world” to the United States.
FOREIGN POLICY/NATIONAL SECURITY
Paul favors a smaller U.S. military presence overseas and opposes domestic surveillance programs, drawing from a libertarian ideology that has put him at odds with GOP donors and policymakers who see him as too soft for the world stage. He started to rein in those tendencies with the approach of his campaign. Paul cited the rise of violence in the Middle East to call for a declaration of war against the Islamic State group, arguing Congress alone has the constitutional power to declare war. And in March he proposed an increase in military spending. He drew support from some on the left as well as the right with a nearly 13-hour Senate speech centered on his opposition to U.S. policy on the use of military drones.
BUDGETS AND ENTITLEMENTS
The government is too big and needs to give money back to the taxpayer. That’s the essence of Paul’s position. He wants to lower the tax rate on overseas corporate profits that are returned to the U.S., and use such money for roads and bridges. He’d create “economic freedom zones” where individual and corporate income taxes are eliminated or drastically reduced in poor areas for 10 years.
Kentucky was the first state in the country to adopt the Common Core standards for English and math in 2010, the year Paul was first elected to the Senate. It’s a good thing state leaders did not ask Paul about it, because the Kentucky senator has since come out strongly against the standards as they’ve become a flashpoint in national politics. Paul says the standards represent a chipping away of local control of education, despite the fact each state must vote to adopt them. He sees Common Core as a “hodgepodge of education theories” and “bureaucratic group think” that would collect massive amounts of data on school children for the government’s “social indoctrination.”
He opposes a federal ban on gay marriage, arguing states should decide for themselves, and says the Republican Party has room for people on both sides of the issue. Paul was criticized recently for a 2013 interview that resurfaced online in which he said he has never used the term “gay rights” because he doesn’t believe “in rights based on your behavior.” He also told pastors of a “moral crisis that allows people to think that there would be some other form of marriage.” He’s backed legislation that sought to ban abortion, yet upset some social conservatives by saying U.S. public opinion is too divided to change federal abortion laws. He’s urged GOP leaders to focus less on gay marriage and abortion as a way to help the party grow.
Kentucky is the nation’s third-largest coal producer, prompting most Kentucky politicians essentially to swear a loyalty oath to the coal industry. On one hand, Paul has denounced the government’s new emission regulations as part of President Barack Obama’s “war on coal.” On the other hand, Paul says he supports some coal regulations. During the debate on whether to authorize construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, Paul was one of 15 Republicans who voted for a measure that said humans contribute to the planet’s global warming problems.
This is an issue that largely sets Paul apart from the rest of the Republican field. He wants to restore voting rights to nonviolent convicted felons, eliminate mandatory minimum sentences, end the federal sentencing disparities between crack and powder cocaine and make it easier for people to expunge their criminal records. He has partnered with Democrats on most of those issues, which might broaden his appeal nationally should he win the GOP nomination.
Philip Elliott contributed to this report.