Republican Senate leaders in Kentucky cheered a bipartisan vote Wednesday that advanced a bill to let Republican Sen. Rand Paul run for president without automatically giving up his Senate seat - but Democratic leaders in the House warned it was not a sign the bill has enough support to become law.
Sen. Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville, joined seven Republicans in voting to send the bill to the Senate floor. McGarvey told reporters he thinks Paul can run for two offices at once just like former Democratic U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman did in 2000 when he was Al Gore's running mate.
But Greg Stumbo, leader of the Democratic-controlled House, repeated his comments from last week that "a man that can't make up his mind which office he wants to run for ain't fit to hold either one."
Asked if that were true of Vice President Joe Biden, a Democrat who ran for re-election to his U.S. Senate seat while President Obama's running mate in 2008, Stumbo said: "That's exactly right. Quote me on that."
Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, changed the bill so that it would only apply to people running for president or vice president. He said he modeled it after a Wisconsin law that allowed U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan to run for re-election while also running for vice president under Republican Mitt Romney.
"I think the opportunity to have one of our own run for president of the United States is an opportunity of gargantuan proportions," Thayer said. "I want to clarify that he can run for both at the same time, or anyone (can) for that matter."
If Paul wins both elections, he would resign his Senate seat and Kentucky's governor - possibly a Democrat - would choose someone to replace him for two years until voters could elect a replacement in a special election. That was troubling to some senators, who worried about people voting for someone who would not take office.
"Why anyone would cast a vote for a person who may not fulfill that position, it defies common sense to me," Sen. Reginald Thomas, D-Lexington, said. "It seems to be a real need to have an orderly process in elections. Part of orderly process is a person on ballot, if elected, will serve in that position. If they will not serve in that position, it creates disorder."
Thayer told reporters after the committee meeting he believes Paul does not need a law change to run for both offices. But Paul and his staff asked Thayer to introduce the bill just in case.
"If the Senate does pass the bill and the House decides to kill the bill, ultimately this is going to end up in court where I believe Sen. Paul has a very strong constitutional case to make," Thayer said.