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ABC "This Week" - Transcript: 2010 Congressional Election


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AMANPOUR: One of those aiming to make history is Rand Paul, senator-elect from Kentucky, and he joins me this morning. Welcome. Thank you for being here.

PAUL: Good morning.

AMANPOUR: In a way, it is, to coin a phrase, historic. There's never been a Tea Party in modern American history, and you are one of the prominent Tea Partiers. What is your first aim once you get to -- to the Senate?

PAUL: I think the debt. We have to do something about the debt. I think we've been fiscally irresponsible for a generation or more here. And the one thing about the Tea Party that's interesting is, it really is equal parts chastisement to both parties. You know, Republicans doubled the debt when we were in charge, and then Democrats are tripling the debt. And I've said this over and over again. It's not about political party, but it is about fiscally trying to do something to balance our budget.

AMANPOUR: Well, we've all seen and we followed the campaign, and there was a lot of talk, a lot of slogans and platitudes about cutting the debt, balancing the budget, cutting the deficit. But there has not been any direct information on how you're going to do that, no specifics. It was fairly content-free, the platform. So where are you going to cut in order to make a meaningful change?

PAUL: Well, some of it has to be procedural, in the sense that we need to balance our budget by law. If you force legislators to balance, at the end of the day, if it has to be balanced, then they step up and they become legislators and can find out where to cut.

AMANPOUR: So you're going to move for a balanced budget amendment?

PAUL: Absolutely. Absolutely. And short of that, we need a rule -- it takes a while to get an amendment to the Constitution -- let's have a rule that -- let's obey our rule. They passed pay-as-you-go, and they break it in the first three weeks they have it. So we need rules.


PAUL: And we need to obey the rules. The second thing you need is -- and I don't see things in terms of political party, so I think this can be something where I can work across the aisle -- but the second thing you need is a compromise on where the spending cuts come from. Republicans traditionally say, oh, we'll cut domestic spending, but we won't touch the military. The liberals -- the ones who are good -- will say, oh, we'll cut the military, but we won't cut domestic spending.

AMANPOUR: All right. Well, let's ask you.

PAUL: Bottom line is, you have to look at everything across the board.

AMANPOUR: All right. Where, then? Military? Would you cut the military?

PAUL: Yes. Yes.

AMANPOUR: By how much? Obviously, Robert Gates has made some suggestions.

PAUL: Well, I think it's hard -- it's hard to give exact numbers, but I think one thing that's concerning -- you know, recently, Admiral Milliken (ph) said that the interest on the debt now is going to approach in the next couple of years -- just the interest on the debt -- will approach what we spend in the national defense budget. So, I mean, that should alarm us all. Bernanke says the debt is unsustainable. We need to do something about it.

AMANPOUR: The question, again, is, exactly what? Because, again, the Republicans in the campaign have come up with $50 billion here, $100 billion there, a lot to you and me, but in terms of reducing a $1.3 trillion deficit, how does the math add up?

PAUL: It has to be...

AMANPOUR: Are you going to cut entitlements?

PAUL: It has to be everything across the board.

AMANPOUR: Entitlements?

PAUL: And you -- you have to look at entitlements.

AMANPOUR: Social Security?

PAUL: What I would say is not the people who are currently on it and not those approaching retirement, but the sooner we fix it, the better. So it may be 55 and under, but that should be this year. We should look at 55 and under, what do we do to change the system to make it more sustainable?

AMANPOUR: Raise the retirement age?

PAUL: You may have to. You may have to. They're already talking about it. I mean, there's a bipartisan commission up here talking about raising age, graduating the benefits, maybe having means testing. You have to look at all of these things. They need to be on the table. But what you have to get to get there is you have to take it out of campaign mode.

AMANPOUR: Exactly.

PAUL: You know, everybody in the campaign mode, how long have we been running Mediscare ads? Democrats have run against Republicans for years saying we're going to take away your grandmother's Social Security. We're not going to do that.

AMANPOUR: All right.

PAUL: But we need to fix it, because we have too many people retiring.

AMANPOUR: What about health care? All candidates were saying we had to repeal health care, yet the American people did not say that in this election: 47 percent said repeal; 48 percent said no.

PAUL: Well, it depends on -- depends on where you look. You look in Missouri, 70 percent voted to get rid of Obamacare.

AMANPOUR: But just across -- across the board, is that what you're going to do?

PAUL: In Kentucky, 70 percent of the people would like to repeal it or have our attorney general challenge the constitutionality of it. I think there are some real constitutional questions. It's going forward. A federal judge in both Florida and Virginia have said, yes, we're going to go forward with this. So I think you will see that go forward and we will challenge it in the courts. And also we should try to repeal it.

AMANPOUR: Let me ask you this in terms, again, of balancing the budget. There are many economists who simply say the math does not add up if you're not going to agree to raising taxes. Do you agree that taxes will have to be raised, as well?

PAUL: Well, I think it's not a revenue problem; it's a spending problem.

AMANPOUR: But it is a revenue problem, according to so many economists.

PAUL: Well, yes and no. I mean, we bring in -- the thing is, is that a lot of times people would come to me and say, well, you don't believe in any government. And I would tell them, you know what? I believe in $2.4 trillion worth; I just don't think you can have $4 trillion worth if you only bring in $2.4 trillion. 2.4's a lot. That's a huge government. We've doubled the size of government in 10 years.


PAUL: We don't need bigger government. We need to shrink the size of government.

AMANPOUR: Right, but without making strong entitlement and other cuts -- and even if one does, most of the economists say the math simply doesn't add up to keep -- to keep tax cuts on and on and on. Will you agree to some?

PAUL: My -- my hope now -- my hope is to be on the Budget Committee and to go through all of these numbers and, by January, to have a balanced budget that I will introduce. I want there to be a Republican alternative -- whether it wins or not, I want the Republican message to be one of balanced budgets. If they won't do it in a year, we'll say, how about two years? If they won't do it in two years, how about three years? But someone has to believe it.

AMANPOUR: Give me one specific cut, Senator-elect.

PAUL: All across the board.

AMANPOUR: One significant one. No, but you can't just keep saying all across the board.

PAUL: Well, no, I can, because I'm going to look at every program, every program. But I would freeze federal hiring. I would maybe reduce federal employees by 10 percent. I'd probably reduce their wages by 10 percent. The average federal employee makes $120,000 a year. The average private employee makes $60,000 a year. Let's get them more in line, and let's find savings. Let's hire no new federal workers.

AMANPOUR: Pay for soldiers? Would you cut that?

PAUL: I think that's something that you can't do. I don't think...

AMANPOUR: You cannot do?

PAUL: Right. I think that soldiers have to be paid. Now, can we say that gradually we don't need as large of an Army if we're not in two wars? Yes, I think you can say that. You can save money there. You can bring some troops home or have Europe pay more for their defense and Japan pay more and Korea pay more for their defense or bring those troops home and have savings there.

AMANPOUR: Have you thought much about foreign policy? Does the Tea Party have a foreign policy?

PAUL: I think the Tea Party believes in a strong national defense, that it's a priority for our country, that the Constitution exemplifies and says that national defense is one of our priorities. But, no, primarily the Tea Party is about the debt. It's concerned and worried that we're inheriting or passing along this debt to our kids and our grandkids, is the number one thing of the Tea Party.

AMANPOUR: So, again, to talk about the debt and to talk about taxes, there seems to be, again, just so much sort of generalities, for want of a better word.

PAUL: Right.

AMANPOUR: And, for instance, there are many people...

PAUL: Well, the thing is that you can call it a generality, but what if -- what if I were president and I said to you, "Tomorrow, we're going to have a 5 percent cut across the board in everything"? That's not a generality, but there are thousands of programs. If you say, "Well, what are all the specifics?" There are books written on all the specifics. There's a book by Christopher Edwards, downsizing government, goes through every program. That's what it will take. It's a very detailed analysis. But you need to ask of every program, when we take no program off the table, can it be downsized? Can it be privatized? Can it be made smaller?

AMANPOUR: And what about earmarks? Would you say no to earmarks?

PAUL: No -- no more earmarks.

AMANPOUR: No more? Not even in your state?

PAUL: No. No. But I do tell people within Kentucky is I say, look, I will argue within the committee process for things that are good for Kentucky that they want and also within the context of a balanced budget. Here's what happens. You go to the Transportation Committee and they say, "What do you want?" But it should be, "How much do we have?" No one asks, "How much do we have?" So we just spend it. And then, at the end of the day, if we don't have it, we either print it or borrow it. Those are bad things. There is no restraint, but that's why you need rules. In Kentucky, we have a balanced budget amendment. We have to balance our budget. So they have to be better legislators.

AMANPOUR: One of the emergencies is going to be voting to lift the debt ceiling.

PAUL: Right.

AMANPOUR: Would you do that?

PAUL: I don't believe I will vote to raise the debt ceiling.

AMANPOUR: You won't?

PAUL: No. I think that we need to send a message -- we need to send a strong message that...

AMANPOUR: The government would default, then.

PAUL: Well, only if we won the vote, would they default.

AMANPOUR: So you think it won't pass?

PAUL: You know, I think it's unlikely. There are people who vote against the debt ceiling every time to send a message that adding more debt is wrong. I think we shouldn't add more debt. I think we should immediately start cutting spending. We should have a freezing hire. We should not spend any more of the stimulus money that's unspent, the TARP money that's unspent. You know, we need to get our fiscal house in order. But bigger than the specifics is a rule. Congress does not obey their own rules. This is what -- you want to know where the Tea Party is, why we're unhappy? We're unhappy because they pass pay-as-you-go and, in the first three weeks, they say everything's an emergency and they evade their own rules. That's a problem.

AMANPOUR: Right. Well, let me -- let me ask you about some of the challenges you might face from within your own party. Do you expect to be welcomed with open arms by the establishment Republicans? Trent Lott, former senior leader of the Republican Party, said when you get to Congress, they've got to co-opt you.

PAUL: Well, I think the interesting thing is...

AMANPOUR: Are you co-optable?

PAUL: No, but I think the Tea Party actually is co-opting Washington. You look around you...

AMANPOUR: So vice versa?

PAUL: Absolutely. We're coming. We're -- we're proud. We're strong. We're loud. And we're going to co-opt. And, in fact, I think we're already shaping the debate. You hear a lot of talk about the debt now. Where do you think that's coming from?

AMANPOUR: Can you compromise with the Democrats?

PAUL: That's coming from our movement. Absolutely. And I told you where the compromise is. The compromise is, Republicans never say they'll cut anything out of military. What I say is, national defense is the most important thing we do in Washington, but there's still waste in the military budget. You have to make it smaller, but you also then need to address, how many wars are we going to be involved in? Are we going to be involved in every war all the time?

AMANPOUR: Afghanistan? Are you going to call for early withdrawal there?

PAUL: We have to -- we need to have a debate over it.

AMANPOUR: Would you?

PAUL: We need to have a debate over it.

AMANPOUR: But the president has a timetable. Do you disagree with that?

PAUL: Right. What I think is that ultimately troop deployments are decided by the president, not by Congress. I don't think really Congress can decide troop levels. In fact, I think if Congress told him to bring all of them home on a certain time, I think he can do what he wants constitutionally. But what I would say is, we need to have a debate in our country, in our Congress over, is our national security still threatened by Afghanistan? Do we need to be there? Do we need to be there in a large...

AMANPOUR: Do you think so?

PAUL: Well, do we need to be there? I want to ask these questions. Some of them I don't know all the information yet. But what I would say is, do we need to be there in a large ground -- ground war? Or could we be there on a smaller base and have the Afghans -- after 10 years...

AMANPOUR: Well, that's the debate that's going on right now, in any event.

PAUL: Well, after 10 years, I think the Afghans need to have stepped up more to do more. And if you ask our G.I.s, when I asked them from Kentucky leaving the base, I say, "Are the Afghans stepping up enough? Would you rather the Afghans do more of the patrolling on the streets?" Every one of these young brave men and women will tell you, "Yes." So the mood is changing, even within those who are the brave young men and women that are serving our country.

AMANPOUR: Will you ratify the START treaty?

PAUL: I think we need to have more discussion on it, but it doesn't sound like that I'm probably going to be in favor of that.

AMANPOUR: It doesn't sound?

PAUL: We're going -- we're going to have a discussion about it.

AMANPOUR: Wouldn't it be a good thing to have more nuclear treaties with the Russians?

PAUL: Well, I mean, some of it has been good. I mean, some of it under George W. Bush...

AMANPOUR: That would save money, too, wouldn't it?

PAUL: ... under George W. Bush, we did reduce armaments. And I think you have to -- some of it is the devil's in the details there, and I need to know more about it before making an immediate decision.

AMANPOUR: Well, we hope to have you back, and we'll get more details from you next time.

PAUL: Thank you.


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