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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript - Abortion and Immigration


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BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He is, and we've paid a lot of attention to him, Wolf, but a lot of people don't even know who Rand Paul is. They will soon though, because even if he won't fully admit it yet, he's running for president.


KEILAR (voice-over): He's that Republican senator with the distinctive curly blonde hair.

SEN. RAND PAUL, (R) KENTUCKY: I will speak until I can no longer speak.

KEILAR: The one who recently filibustered the president's CIA chief pick for 13 hours. The son of former congressman, Ron Paul, whose libertarian views made him the outlier in the 2012 GOP field. He's Rand Paul and he's got his eye on the White House as he tries to take his hands off government proposals mainstream in a way his father never did.

PAUL: Our party is encumbered by an inconsistent approach to freedom. The new GOP will need to embrace liberty in both the economic and the personal sphere.

KEILAR: Paul is feuding with GOP old bold, John McCain, who recently called Paul a wacko bird.

PAUL: The GOP of old has grown stale and moss covered.


PAUL: Now, I don't think we need to name any names, do we?


KEILAR: Not a bad way to get in with conservative Republicans who don't much care for McCain, and so is this, proposing a law to effectively overturn Roe v. Wade by giving equal protection to unborn fetuses. But Paul is also trying to broaden his appeal. Today, he announced he supports a pathway to legal status for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

PAUL: Republicans need to become parents of a new future with Latino voters or we will need to resign ourselves to being a permanent minority status.


KEILAR (on-camera): This is a surprising move for a Republican backed by Tea Party voters many of whom oppose such a proposal, but then, Sen. Paul is looking to 2016 and he's going to need more than a loyal but small fan base to get there -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brianna, thanks very much. I'll see you in a little while. Senator Paul is joining us now live from Capitol Hill. Senator, thanks very much for coming in.

PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We just need some clarification. Your immigration proposal that you outlined today, does that actually call for a pathway to eventual citizenship for those 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States?

PAUL: The main reason I felt compelled to have my own proposal to the bipartisan proposal is that my proposal adds border security and ensures that border security occurs by letting Congress vote on it. As far as pathways, what we say is to those who are here, those who have been working, those who may not be documented, that if you want to work and you want to stay in America, we'll find a place for you.

Now as far as citizenship, that's sort of a different story. We're talking about is work visas. But if you want to get in line to become a citizen, we think that you don't have to leave the country and go back to Mexico or Central America. We would let you simply get in line, but you don't get to get in front of anyone in the line.

So, it doesn't get you in the green card line. It gets you in the line to enter the country legally to become a citizen like everybody else who wants to come from around the world to be a citizen. So, it may take a little while, but I'm also in favor of maybe speeding up the line, allowing more work visas. And if you have a job in America, I see no reason why we wouldn't want to almost immediately get you a work visa.

BLITZER: So, in other words, you're not ruling out, you're supporting eventually after several steps are taken that these 11 or 12 million illegal immigrants will eventually if they do all the right things be allowed to become United States citizens.

PAUL: Interestingly yes, but at the same time, I'm not proposing something new. And that's why this whole immigration debate gets into these check the box and new pathway to citizen, check the box amnesty or no amnesty. I think that's trapping us into something that makes the debate too simple. I'm not offering a new pathway to citizenship. I'm simply saying you can get a work visa and you can get in the normal line.

I'm not creating a new line for citizenship. I'm just saying you can get in the current line that exists. The only thing I'm saying is you don't have to go home. But I am saying that I'm open to immigration reform and that Republicans should be open to immigration reform and I spent time this morning with a Hispanic chamber of commerce letting them know not only am I open to that, but I'm open to the whole Latin-American romance language tradition and that I think it infuses the American spirit with a lot of things that are good for America.

BLITZER: Let's move on to Senator John McCain. I want you to clarify because there's ban little bit of a rift between you and him. You suggested the other day that some of the senators, and everyone assumed you were referring to Senator McCain, when you said the GOP of old has grown stale and moss covered. You didn't want to say who you were referring to, but you said everybody knows who you were referring to. Were you referring to Senator McCain?

PAUL: I would say it's a figurative sort of sentence in the sense that it isn't really to be taken literally. And it was also meant for humor, and I think it garnered a little bit of humor. But it really is to say that we, as a GOP, need to embrace new ideas and grow our party in a way that some haven't. But I didn't really intend it to be directed at one person.

BLITZER: But he was one of those persons that you were referring to?

PAUL: I wouldn't -- it's a figurative -- it's an allusion, it's an allegory. It's not really something that is meant to be taken literally for one person. He and I have some differences, but I prefer to keep that on, you know, differences on whether or not the whole world is a battlefield, whether or not you get due process in America. And I think those are legitimate debates to have. But I don't want to characterize it in any other way. I have a lot of respect for Senator McCain. He's a war hero. He spent many years of his life in a prison in Vietnam, and I think he deserves respect for that. And I think we can have a healthy debate and disagreement in the Republican Party and grow our party bigger because if you all agree on everything completely, that's going to be a pretty small party.

BLITZER: He seemed to take it personally. I'll play this little sound bite from what he said yesterday.


SEN. JOHN MCCAIN, (R) ARIZONA: References were made to people who are too old and moss covered and that we need new and fresh individuals and ideas and thoughts and I agree with all of those, every bit of those recommendations and comments that were made. But there is a little bit of benefit of being around for a while.


BLITZER: I assume you agree with him on that last point.

PAUL: Yes. I have no dispute with it. I mean, my dad has been around for a while and I think you do gain knowledge through experience and time and I think, you know, our elders are to be respected. So, I don't take any dispute with that. And I really don't have a personal dispute. I mean, I think people make more about this than actually is probably accurate.

I like John McCain as a person and I really try never to disrespect him and I try to avoid, you know, saying that really people on either side of the aisle. But I think there are legitimate, you know, debates and discussions about how the Republican Party grows and moves forward and I think there does need to be a new GOP.

Not that we give up on what we believe in, but that what we believe in more explicit and more clear and we try to reach audiences we haven't been reaching, Latinos, African-Americans, young people. So, I think there is a reason to think that we can evolve in a better direction than we've been.

BLITZER: Let's talk about abortion rights for women right now. The other day, you introduced legislation entitled the Life at Conception Act. I believe you were designing this to overturn in effect, effectively Roe vs Wade. Is that right?

PAUL: I think it's probably designed even more philosophically than that. It's designed to begin the discussion over when life begins. And it's not an easy discussion. And we're divided as a country on it. So, I don't think we're in any real rush towards any new legislation to tell you the truth.

But I would say is that, it's an important philosophical discussion because all of our rights, all of our rights to do anything we choose to do as individuals sort of stem from an individual right to life. And all of us agree to that at some point in time. So, for the 6-month-old baby that's been born and that is home in a crib, the state will step in if a mother abuses it or a father does.

We all agree we're going to protect the six-month-old. We pretty much all agree on the one-day-old. Before that, we have some disagreements. But my intention is to bring it forward, have a healthy, philosophic, and moral discussion over what we should do, what the state should be involved with. When should life be protected?

And I don't think we're ready yet for our society maybe to change any laws, but I think it's worthwhile having the discussion if we can keep it from being too much of a flippant discussion over this, that country, this and that, and that it's an important philosophical foundation to the law of a civilization.

BLITZER: So, just to be precise, if you believe life begins at conception, which I suspect you do believe that, you would have no exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother, is that right?

PAUL: Well, I think that once again puts things in too small of a box. What I would say is that there are thousands of exceptions. You know, I'm a physician and every individual case is going to be different, and everything is going to be particular to that individual case and what's going on with that mother and the medical circumstances of that mother.

I would say that after birth, you know, we've decided that when life begins, we have decided that we don't have exceptions for one- day-old or six-month-olds. We don't ask where they came from or how they came into being, but it is more complicated because the rest of it depends on the definition of when life comes in. So, I don't think it's a simple as checking box and saying exceptions or no exceptions.

I've been there at the beginning of life. I've held one-pound babies in my hand that I examined their eyes. I've been there at the end of life.

And there are a lot of decisions that are made privately by families and their doctors that really won't -- the law won't apply to, but I think it's important that we not be flippant one way or the other and pigeon hole and say, oh, this person doesn't believe in any sort of discussion between family. And so, I don't know if there's a simple way to put me in a category on any of that.

BLITZER: Well, it sounds like you believe in some exceptions.

PAUL: Well, there's going to be, like I say, thousands of extraneous situations where the life of the mother is involved and other things that are involved.

So, I would say that each individual case would have to be addressed and even if there were eventually a change in the law, let's say, the people came more to my way of thinking, it's still be a lot of complicated things that the law may not ultimately be able to address in the early stages of pregnancy that would have to be part of what occurs between the physician and the woman and the family.

This goes for the same with the end of life. I do think life ought to be protected to the end. I don't believe in, you know, officially euthanizing people, but I also think there is some privacy at the end of life also, and we make difficult decisions all the time on resuscitation, how long to extend medical treatment, and a lot of these are medical decisions.

But, I think that what I don't believe that I can compromise on is that I think there is something special about life and that all of the rights that we spend time up here discussing, the right to trial by jury, all of these things stem from a sort of a primordial right to your life and how you use it.

BLITZER: One final question because we're almost out of time. You're going to Iowa in May for a major Republican fundraising event out there. Are you running for president?

PAUL: You know, I haven't made a decision. We are concentrating on a lot of the problems we have here, but I do want to be part of the national debate and people do get more attention when they go to Iowa. You know, people pay attention to what you're doing, and it helps the party there to grow the party to raise money.

But it also helps draw attention to if I have ideas about how we grow the party, how we reach out to Latino voters and African-American voters. It draws attention to those things by going to Iowa. Plus, we have a lot of friends we've developed in Iowa over the years. So, I'm excited to go there and hope that I can raise some money for the party.

BLITZER: Senator Paul, thanks so much for coming in.

PAUL: Thank you, Wolf.


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