Paul is a first term Senator like Cruz, and similarly lacked experience holding elected office prior to his successful Senate campaign in 2010. He has an M.D. from the Duke University School of Medicine and is a licensed ophthalmologist. Paul founded the Southern Kentucky Lions Eye Clinic in 1995 to provide free exams and surgeries to those with limited means, and has continued to provide pro bono surgeries since his election to office.
He has worked to broaden the appeal of the Republican Party, with particular emphasis on reaching out to African-American voters. Paul’s efforts include expanding the largely economic case Republicans typically use to appeal to African-American voters to include criminal justice reform and other instances where government has failed the black community, as well as frequently speaking before groups typically hostile to the right.
Paul describes himself as “libertarian-ish,” saying “I think a libertarian twist or a libertarian influence in the Republican Party is good, but I’ve pretty much just stayed with the party and plan on doing so,” when asked if he’d support the GOP nominee if it is someone other than himself. He has received positive scores from prominent conservative groups. His 98% lifetime mark from the economically focused Club For Growth is good for second among active Senators. The broader focused Heritage Action scorecard from the conservative Heritage Foundation gave him a 93% for the previous session of Congress, behind only Senators Lee and Cruz.
Now here’s a look at his stances on the issues:
On Foreign Policy and Security
True to his “libertarian-ish” description, Rand Paul’s foreign policy views attempt to thread the needle between the typical libertarian and conservative positions. In 2013 he delivered a speech to the Heritage Foundation where he articulated a vision between the extremes of imperialism and isolationism. He noted his votes in support of sanctions on Iran, but cautioned against preemptively announcing that diplomacy or containment are not options for dealing with a hypothetical nuclear Iran (he later clarified that he is not for containment of a nuclear Iran – as opposed to more confrontational options – but instead opposes saying ‘we will never contain Iran’). He also compared radical Islam to communism in both its global reach and its need for firm and patient opposition.
While cautioning restraint, he acknowledged “There are times, such as existed in Afghanistan with the bin Laden terrorist camps, that do require intervention. Maybe, we could be somewhere, some of the time and do so while respecting our Constitution and the legal powers of Congress and the Presidency.”
In a budget plan he proposed for fiscal year 2014, Paul reiterated his foreign policy vision and its heavy emphasis on Constitutionality. He notes that “the greatest distinctions over time between the triumphs of the United States and those nations that have suffered defeat is an emphasis on a free people, with rights and liberties, protected by our Constitution.”
He also warned that while the Constitution “outlines the role of the federal government in establishing and maintaining a military,” the same “delicate powers can become unbridled and the notion of ‘defense’ can become undefined.” He criticizes “habitual” use of the military with “opaque justification regarding the national security of the United States,” and says that fundamental rights have been eroded in the name of national security since 9/11.
It comes as little surprise, then, that Paul opposes the Patriot Act, wants to shut down the TSA, sued the Obama administration for warrantless surveillance of cellphones, and captured national attention with a 13-hour filibuster to stop the potential use of drones against suspected terrorists on American soil.
Paul has used his experience as a doctor to criticize Obamacare. He supports full repeal and promotes market-based alternatives. He wants all medical expenses tax deductible, insurance to be purchasable across state lines, and barriers limiting access to Health Savings Accounts removed.
On Criminal Justice
Reform of the criminal justice system has gotten a lot of attention from Paul, particularly but not limited to his outreach to minority groups. He is also a fierce critic of drug sentencing practices, calling it “ridiculous” to put someone in jail for 10 years for possession or sale of marijuana. He has also criticized the militarization of police and fought overcriminalization.
He is an outspoken critic of civil asset forfeiture, and introduced the Fifth Amendment Integrity Restoration Act, or FAIR Act, which he says “would bolster protections for property and property owners by raising the level of proof necessary for the federal government to prove a civil asset forfeiture case – requiring that the IRS and Department of Justice prove guilt, rather than the individual prove innocence.”
He has also proposed legislation restoring federal voting rights for some nonviolent ex-felons, and has called for eliminating the disparity in punishment for powder and crack cocaine which some argue is racially motivated given its disparate impact. He also wants judges to have greater sentencing flexibility.
Paul joined with Democratic Senator Cory Booker to propose the REDEEM Act, which encourages states to adopt policies directing children away from the adult criminal justice system and automatically expunges or seals their records for nonviolent crimes.
Photo by Gerry Hanan/Getty Images for SXSW
Paul would abolish the Department of Education. When he delivered the Tea Party rebuttal to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address, he said that a great education will only be available for everyone once “we allow school choice for everyone, rich or poor, white, brown, or black,” and proposed that education taxes “follow each and every student to the school of your choice.”
He added, “Competition has made America the richest nation in history. Competition can make our educational system the envy of the world.”
On Budget and Taxes
Paul laid out his vision for the budget in a plan called “A Clear Plan to Revilize America.” His proposed framework for fiscal year 2014 claimed to balance the budget in five years without revenue increases and returned discretionary spending to 2008 levels.
He was one of only two Republicans – the other being Ted Cruz – to vote against the Republican budget that the Senate passed, arguing in opposition to a Rubio amendment for increased defense spending that “It is irresponsible and dangerous to continue to put America further into debt, even for something we need.”
He supports a flat tax at a rate not higher than 17%, but notes his plan “is not an attempt to pit one consumption tax against another, or the flat tax against the national sales tax, also known as the ‘FairTax;’ both tax reform ideas achieve similar benefits and would be great alternatives to the current system.”
He argues that “The flat tax system is consistent with the progressive ideology implemented today: It refrains from taxing the poor, and those who pay taxes pay a larger amount as their incomes rise. The flat tax idea is very simple: Income should be taxed as close to the source as possible, and only once.”
In addition, he would eliminate double taxation on savings and investment by abolishing capital gains, dividends, estates, and gift taxes, as well as bring the United States in line with the rest of the world in taxing only that earned within its borders, i.e. by taxing based on residence rather than citizenship.
He has said that he is a believer in “old-fashioned traditional marriage,” but that he doesn’t “think the government needs to be too involved in this.” He also said “the Republican Party can have people on both sides of the issues.”
At a recent meeting with a group of pastors, he said there is a “moral crisis that allows people to think there would be some other sort of marriage.” His spokesman added that Paul “continues to believe that marriage is an issue that should be dealt with at the state level.”
Rand Paul is pro-life. He opposes federal funding for abortion, and has claimed that a “coarsening of our culture towards violent death” is responsible for “the death of 50 million unborn children in the last 40 years.”
He warned, “I don’t think a civilization can long endure that does not have respect for all human life, born and not yet born.”
Paul is a self-described moderate on immigration. He says the GOP needs to be more welcoming toward immigrants. “I think the message for the Republican Party needs to be that we welcome you. If you want to work, we will find a place for you.”
But he also said that, “Because I am for immigration reform, because I am for finding a place in society for people, doesn’t mean I have to vote for a crummy bill” like the so-called comprehensive reform pushed when Democrats controlled the Senate. Rather, he would tie reforms to a mechanism that ensures the border is secured first.
On Gun Rights
Paul has consistently opposed measures to limit the Second Amendment. During his Tea Party rebuttal to Obama’s State of the Union, he said: “We are the party that adheres to the Constitution. We will not let the liberals tread on the Second Amendment … We will not let any President use executive orders to impinge on the Second Amendment.”
He also argues that “the Second Amendment is only as good as the Fourth Amendment. If we are not free from unreasonable and warrantless searches, no one’s guns are safe.”
On Energy and the Environment
In his 2012 book, Government Bullies, Paul says “I consider myself a Crunchy-Con – that is, a conservative who likes, enjoys, and wants to conserve the environment.” He cites his personal lifestyle as evidence, rather than support for more government programs.
His budget framework says that “Federal government policies are prohibiting Americans from accessing the resources that are rightfully theirs.” He notes that “the U.S. is blessed with a robust supply of natural resources,” but access is limited by policy. He proposes finally opening up the 1.5 million acres in ANWR which President Carter set aside for potential energy development, claiming that while production would be limited to only 2,000 acres of the area, or 0.01% of ANWR, it would match 20% of current domestic production and constitute the single largest oil field in North America.
He accuses the Obama administration of “intentional delay” in approving the Keystone XL pipeline, and argues that if the government would “just get out of the way” that “domestic energy production would soar.”
He would also abolish the Department of Energy.
This report is for informational purposes only. Nothing within should be construed as endorsement by the author of either the candidate or his positions on the issues.