WASHINGTON – Republican Sen. Rand Paul said mulling a 2016 White House run gives him a “larger microphone” to spread his libertarian brand of politics, telling reporters he won’t make a final decision on a presidential bid until sometime next year.
Paul -- son of libertarian icon and erstwhile presidential candidate Ron Paul – gained notoriety last month for his 13-hour-long filibuster of CIA Director John Brennan’s nomination, in which the Kentucky senator assailed the Obama administration for initially refusing to rule out the use of drones against U.S. citizens on American soil.
“We’re considering it,” Paul told reporters Wednesday at a breakfast sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor, noting that he will continue to travel to early primary states including Iowa and New Hampshire.
As the Republican Party continues to reel from the heavy losses it suffered at the ballot box in November, Paul has urged his GOP colleagues to do a better job of reaching out to the libertarian wing of the party. He has also engaged in outreach efforts aimed at minority voters – he followed up a speech last week at Washington, D.C.’s Howard University with a visit to another historically-black college in Kentucky.
Paul said a perception exists that Republicans don’t like people of color.
“It’s not true, but that’s the perception we have to overcome,” he said, adding that Republican candidates should at least “show up and ask for their vote.”
Weighing in on immigration reform, Paul suggested that a bipartisan bill unveiled this week by the so-called Gang of 8 wouldn’t be able to pass the Republican-controlled House in its current form – even if it were to garner the likely 60 votes needed to pass. He plans to offer a “trust but verify” amendment that would require Congress to vote on whether the border is secure on an annual basis.
“In general, I am for immigration reform,” Paul told reporters, noting he has had not had a chance to read the Gang of 8’s bill, the final text of which was filed in the early hours of Wednesday morning. He said he would oppose any “new” pathway to citizenship, arguing that there should only be one line, whether a prospective immigrant is waiting in Mexico City or in the U.S.
On gun control, the Tea Party-backed Paul expressed doubt that any of the proposals being considered by the Senate this week would have prevented the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
For example, he argued, if murderers like Adam Lanza are not afraid of death – in Lanza’s case, the troubled 20-year-old shooter killed himself – they are unlikely to be afraid of additional gun laws. Paul also cited the fact that the government prosecuted just a sliver of the some 15,000 people who attempted to purchase a gun but failed a background check.
Nevertheless, he said it’s important that Republicans show empathy for the victims of gun violence.
“I do care about those kids,” he said, slamming President Obama and gun-control advocates for using the victims as “props” to support new restrictions.
Separately, Paul warned against escalating U.S. military involvement overseas in hotspots like Mali, Syria and Libya. He criticized the Senate for refusing to support his push to revoke the authorization of the war in Iraq, bemoaning the fact he “couldn’t get them to stop a war that’s already done.”
The potential White House contender admitted he doesn’t have a “great answer” when it comes to the prison in Guatanamo Bay, Cuba. He stressed there is an important distinction between detaining American citizens without due process and detaining those who are captured on a battlefield overseas.