BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky Senate hopeful Rand Paul chided fellow Republicans on Sunday evening for contributing to the massive federal budget deficit, candidly telling tea party supporters in his hometown that GOP lawmakers took “the easy way out” by failing to cut spending in the past.
Paul said Democrats share greater blame for rising red ink, but the tea party favorite said Republicans squandered past congressional majorities by presiding amid times of growing federal deficits.
“We as Republicans have taken the easy way out a lot of times,” said Paul, a first-time candidate who portrays himself as a political outsider. “We vote to cut taxes but we don’t ever vote to cut any spending. Because as soon as you do, as soon as you bring up a program, it’s somebody’s program and they love it.
“You can’t have it both ways. You can’t tell me that you’re taxed enough already, and that you want constitutional government and then in the next breath say, ‘Bring me home some bacon.’ The pig has been picked clean.”
Paul drew applause from the crowd, and a local tea party organizer said afterward that Republicans would also face retribution from the movement’s supporters if they fail to deliver on spending cuts and more limited government.
“There will be nothing worse than the wrath of the tea party upon anyone that we support that goes to Washington and does not uphold those very values that we put them in that office for,” said Randy Keller, the local tea party activist.
Paul overcame steep political odds early on in the campaign with his message of smaller government and balanced budgets. He defeated a rival backed by much of the state’s GOP establishment in winning the Senate nomination in the spring, and now is running against Democratic Attorney General Jack Conway in the November election.
Paul has said that if elected he intends to introduce a proposal to balance the federal budget, but recently said he doubts he will offer a specific and comprehensive plan before the fall election.
Conway’s campaign took aim at Paul for not being more specific about his budget reduction plan.
“Rand Paul talks a lot, but he won’t show voters his secret budget scheme,” Conway campaign spokesman John Collins said in a statement. “Paul is afraid voters will learn he believes drugs aren’t a pressing issue and miners don’t deserve federal safety protections. Simply put, Paul doesn’t understand Kentucky.”
Paul told the tea party crowd that both parties shoulder responsibility for the mushrooming federal debt that he says threatens the nation’s economic future.
“The Republicans doubled the debt and now the Democrats are tripling the debt,” he said. “There’s not a lot of kudos to go around to either side.”
Paul also lashed out at Barack Obama, saying the Democratic president is most responsible for the spread of the national tea party movement “because he’s fundamentally wrong on every issue.”
“There’s nothing inherently wrong with him as a person,” Paul told the crowd. “It’s his ideas that are bad, OK. And his ideas are wrong, and we need to argue and challenge him on the ideas.”
Paul is hoping to capitalize on voter backlash against Obama in seeking to keep the Senate seat in the Republican column. Conway and Paul are competing to replace Sen. Jim Bunning, who is retiring after two terms.
In his speech, Paul also touched on issues that typically rile tea party sympathizers, denouncing the health care overhaul as a prime example of an overreaching government.
Paul said uncertainty about health care and environmental regulations are helping stifle an economic recovery. The best formula for an economic turnaround, he said, is for government to get out of the way of business.
“I think we can get the economy going again,” he said.