BLITZER: So congressional Republicans are definitely striking back at the president saying he can prevent damage to essential services by cutting from other areas of government.
Earlier, I spoke with the Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky.
BLITZER: Senator, the president spoke today about those forced budget cuts. He had some pretty tough words for Republicans. Let me play a little bit of what he said, get your reaction. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: So now Republicans in Congress face a simple choice. Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and health care and national security and all the jobs that depend on them, or would they rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations? That's the choice.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right. You heard the president lay out the choice. Are you willing to compromise on the way he described them?
SEN. RAND PAUL (R), KENTUCKY: I'm not really willing to discuss in it the framework that he's made up for himself.
I mean, for goodness sakes, it was his proposal. He proposed the sequester. It was his idea. He signed it into law, and now he's going to tell us that, oh, it's all our fault?
I voted against the sequester because I didn't think it was enough. The sequester cuts the rate of growth of the spending, but the sequester doesn't even really begin to cut spending, which we have to do or we are going to get a credit downgrade, another credit downgrade.
BLITZER: So you don't think that the $85 billion this year, that would be the forced cuts this year, from your perspective, that's not enough?
PAUL: It's a pittance. I mean, it's a slowdown in the rate of growth. There are no real cuts happening over 10 years.
Over 10 years, the budget will still grow $7 trillion to $8 trillion. He added $6 trillion to the debt in his first term. He's on course to add another $4 trillion to $6 trillion in his second term. So, really, this is just really nibbling at the edges, and he's saying, oh, it's some dramatic thing where all of a sudden it's still the rich's fault.
Didn't he already raise taxes on the rich? I'm having trouble even understanding what he's talking about because he sets up this rhetoric and this sort of game of let's go get the rich again that really is divorced from any reality. It's his sequester we're talking about, his bill.
BLITZER: But, as you know, a lot of your fellow Republicans complain bitterly about the proposed defense cuts in these forced budget cuts, if you will. Already, there were $500 billion in cuts last year. They say they can't stand anymore. National security is on the line.
So, what do you say to your fellow Republicans right now who say no more defense cuts? PAUL: We spend 47 percent of the total world spending on military. We spend more than the next 14 countries combined. Now, I'm a big national defense guy. I think it's the most important thing we do in Washington is national defense, but I do think there's room for cutting.
BLITZER: When you gave the Tea Party response to the president's State of the Union address last week, you proposed some solutions to the deficit crisis. You said you would start with cutting foreign aid to countries that -- quote -- "are burning our flag and chanting death to America."
Senator, we're talking about countries, I think you would agree, Pakistan, Yemen, Lebanon, Afghanistan, according to these reports. But are they really realistic to start cutting economic aid or foreign aid to these countries where the U.S. needs their assistance to a certain degree in fighting terror?
PAUL: I think until Pakistan steps up and says that we are going to not tolerate people who would kill someone like the little girl Malala who was shot point blank in the head who survived, but is such a wonderful sweet voice for girls to get educated in Pakistan, boy, Pakistan -- we shouldn't have to pay Pakistan to stand up and for them to eradicate people who would shoot little girls.
BLITZER: What's the likelihood, bottom line, Senator, that Congress will agree on avoiding these forced budget cuts by March 1, especially given the fact that there's -- the Senate, for example, is on recess this week. What's going to happen March 1?
PAUL: I think the sequester happens, and it will be in some ways a yawn, because the histrionics that are coming from the president, saying, oh, we're going to shut down and get rid of meat inspectors, is anybody not going to stand up and call his bluff on that ridiculousness?
The budgets are not being decreased. We're talking about cutting the rate of growth of budgets. And he has the ability to spend the money in different places. If not, we should give latitude to do it. But the thing is, is that there is waste throughout government. And the cuts in the rate of growth should not have us laying off FAA air traffic controllers and meat inspectors.
This is the emotionalism that's always used to argue against any cuts. This is not enough cuts. So we shouldn't be -- if we get rid of this, it just shows that we're really not serious as a nation about doing anything about our debt crisis. I would say to the president, stand up and do the right thing. And don't ask us to squeeze more money out of the private sector, which we think is bad for jobs, in order for you to do the right thing. Why doesn't he stand up and be a leader and just do the right thing?
BLITZER: Senator Rand Paul, thanks very much for joining us.
PAUL: Thank you.