BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is coming out guns-a-blazing against efforts by the Washington political establishment to rush through Congress a giant spending bill, called an “omnibus.” In an exclusive interview, he tells Breitbart News that he plans to rally his colleagues against such a bill.
Instead, Paul thinks Republicans, who will control the Senate come January, should use their power to retake control from the Democrats by passing individual appropriations bills.
“I’m against any kind of Continuing Resolution or omnibus,” Paul says, adding:
We should do appropriations bills. If they have to do one for a month until they can tide it over—or a couple months—maybe, but even that, I’m not for spending the same amount of money we spend because the money we spend now has led to a $17.5 trillion debt. So what I would say is—this is what I will say in my caucus—there are twelve appropriations bills, and we should work on all twelve.
That stand puts Paul at odds with his fellow Kentuckian, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rep. Hal Rogers (R), who is pushing for an omnibus. But Paul points out that Republicans just won the midterm elections, and he adds that by passing individual appropriations bills, Republicans can tell President Barack Obama how to spend Americans’ money.
“That’s our job,” Paul points out. Elaborating, he states:
If we were to pass all twelve of the appropriations bills, we’d have an enormous amount of power. But if you wait and pass them all into one enormous omnibus bill, you have no power. If it’s wait until “shut the government down or don’t shut the government down,” then everybody’s tendency is “let’s just keep it going so we don’t get blamed for shutting the government down.” But as a consequence, we keep spending money and borrowing money at a million dollars a minute. But I think it’s important we do the appropriations bills, and I will argue in my caucus that we should do every appropriations bill.
Paul also joins incoming Senate Budget Committee Chairman Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) in arguing that Republicans should use all their power—including the power of the purse through appropriations and spending restraints—to block President Obama’s planned executive amnesty.
“I think we should do everything we can to stop him from acting illegally,” Paul said. He went on to say:
So I think that to grant amnesty by executive order is illegal because I think that’s writing legislation, changing the legislation of the current law by the President’s executive fiat or order. So we should try to stop him. We should try to direct his behavior to bring him back within the bounds of the law. How we do that, I think, needs to be worked out. Our caucus will be discussing it. The people on the Appropriations Committee have more power than the people not on the Appropriations Committee. We’ll have to work through it. I think if you talk to most Republicans in the Senate, new or old, I think you’ll find a lot of them really do want to use the power of the purse to restrain this President from acting in an arrogant and illegal way.
Paul was in Louisiana to join Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness for a GOP unity event. Cassidy got more votes than Maness in the November 4 U.S. Senate election. Since no candidate earned more than half the vote, however, Cassidy will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA) in a December 6 runoff.
By joining Sessions and others to publicly challenge the omnibus spending efforts from Rogers, Speaker John Boehner, and other GOP leadership officials, Paul seems to hope to derail a grand bargain’s chances before the Congress convenes its lame duck session.
Paul’s position is uniquely powerful, as he is widely considered one of the front-runners for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. Incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, another of Paul’s Kentucky colleagues, has already offered a preliminary endorsement of Paul’s likely presidential campaign.
While this spending battle will occur with the outgoing Congress, before the newly-elected Senate GOP majority and emboldened House GOP majority take over, it will set much of the tone for how Republicans handle President Obama for the final two years of his presidency. It will also be an early benchmark for how Republicans deal with issues within their party—and which wing of the GOP, conservatives or establishment Republicans, starts off with the upper hand.
Perhaps that is why, despite signs that this grand bargain could be derailed early, Roll Call’s Tamar Hallerman wrote that appropriators, including Rogers, are “bullish in public about being able to forge a genuine omnibus deal in the lame duck” even though “the odds are stacking up against them.”
“Emboldened by the GOP’s Senate sweep and gains in the House last week,” Hallerman wrote, “there are rumblings that conservatives may start pushing for a three-month stopgap that would delay funding decisions through March in order to minimize the influence of Senate Democrats in the negotiating process.” He added that “it is currently unclear whether such discussions are gaining momentum, but it could upend appropriators’ planning.
Hallerman is correct that it is still unclear how successful conservatives will be in upending leadership’s plans, but it is early in the process, and there are signs that another epic Capitol Hill battle, such as we’ve seen in the House GOP conference over the past two years, may be brewing.
With Paul, Sessions, presumably Sens. Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, and others lining up against leadership’s efforts before Congress even gets organized for the lame duck session, the next few weeks could be a bumpy ride.