OTR Interviews

Sen. Rand Paul on Harry Reid versus rancher Cliven Bundy: We need to tone down the rhetoric, but the government has overreached

Kentucky senator sounds off the ongoing land dispute between Clievn Bundy and federal officials, whether it is an example of government overreach and more


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," April 21, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid calling armed Bundy supporters "domestic terrorists." But the militia members insisting they are doing patriotic duty to protect the Bundys from government overreach.

Joining us, Senator Rand Paul. Senator, good evening.

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY: Good evening, Greta. Thanks for having me.

VAN SUSTEREN: Nice to have you here.

Let me ask you about this Bundy issue. Is domestic terrorism, as Senator Harry Reid says, or government overreach or something in between?


PAUL: You know, I think we need to tone down the rhetoric a little bit. I think all of us hope or should hope that we get a peaceful outcome to this.

I do think that the federal government, through the Endangered Species Act, has overstepped. I think the fact that 80 percent of the land is owned by the federal government in Nevada, these are things we could correct. But I don't think they ought to be corrected in a standoff or an armed standoff or in violence. I have legislation to try to fix some of this. I would send the Endangered Species Act back to the states and let the governors and state legislature oversee this. I have had this in the hopper for a year. And if Senator Reid wants to have constructive dialogue on the problem, I would love to have a floor debate and a vote on my bill.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know, I don't know how it even got to this. I mean, obviously, incredibly important dispute to both sides. But we have got the government swooping in with snipers and helicopters and stealing cattle or wrestling cattle, and then on the other side, we have got people coming from across the country as an armed militia. How does it get to this?

PAUL: Well, the way I understand it -- and the facts are a little bit murky -- if that even if he paid his grazing fees back in 1993, they weren't going to let him -- they were going to limit the number of his cattle and limit his area to graze. So as a lot of people know about the West, you have to have a lot of acreage to graze cattle. So I think they were limiting it and he felt it wasn't their right to do so. There is real debate where whether this land should be owned by the federal government or state government.

With regard to his specifics, I'm for obeying the law and I'm not for a violent outcome. But with regard to the general question, should the states have some prerogative in this, I think so. I would like to see the land owned by individuals, either privately or, at the very most, the state government, but not the federal government. And I would like to see the Endangered Species Act administered with a little more sense of what people need as well as what animals need.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is this a sense of a growing sort of overreach by the government or is this just like, you know, tempers just went way off the charts on this and it got way out of control?

PAUL: Well, look at it this way, we have a little city named Grand Rivers in Kentucky. They wanted to build a new sewage plant because when it rained the raw human sewage went into the lake. The federal government prevented them from building a sewage plant until they could count the mussels in the river to make sure that, by having less sewage in the river, it wouldn't hurt the mussels. Absurd things like that. We have another lake in Kentucky where they won't raise the water of the lake because there is a fish and they are not sure whether more water will hurt a fish. That kind of absurdity coming from the federal government is why people get angry. They charge homeowners or property owners in Kentucky money to chop down our trees if they find a bat on the land. So really, this needs to be administered closer to home so we wouldn't have, I think, such outrageous overstepping by authorities.

VAN SUSTEREN: Tomorrow, you are going to give a speech on education. I went out and saw your Twitter feed, that you put a YouTube video up of a young woman in Chicago, named Jalen, who has to take five modes of transportation to get to her school that she has -- that she has elected to go to. I put it on GretaWire, the video, because it's a powerful video. Why are you giving a speech on education and how do we fix this broken system?

PAUL: Well, because millions of kids, mainly poor kids, and mainly kids, who live in big cities, are getting a crummy education. We have thrown money at the problem but we don't allow choice. We don't let the parents choose where they go. This little girl is a perfect example of her mother wants something better for her and she travels all of that distance every morning, and she wants to be a doctor, and it's a really heart- warming story, but of a child who goes through such adversity just to get a good education. I think every kid in America and every kid in every big city ought to have a choice where they go to school, private or public. Let them take their money -- it's their money, not the government's money - - let them take their money and choose which school they want to go to.

VAN SUSTEREN: You describe it as a heart-warming story. That's not actually even the way I would describe it. I was angry when I watched that video. I thought no child in this country should have to endure this. I really urge people to go on Gretawire and watch the video. To me, it was a very painful indictment of how we have failed so many people in this country.

PAUL: Well, it is because, we should have neighborhood schools and they should be in all parts of Chicago so she doesn't have to go half way across the city. But I guess, to me, it's heart-warming because her mother cares enough about her, and this child cares enough to go through all of this adversity. Yes, it's an indictment of the current system. But it's also endearing in the sense that care that much about that little girl's future and that she really has a chance. I fully believe she will succeed. I have met little boys and girls throughout our country who are going to charter schools, KIP charter schools, vouchers, choice. I'm also going to Milwaukee, the home of the vouchers, to see how their system is working. We need to do this on a nationwide level. We need to not leave these kids behind. These kids are being left behind and really are not getting an opportunity.

VAN SUSTEREN: What's your view of Common Core?

PAUL: I don't think really the curriculum ought to be nationalized. I think each state can handle education better than the federal government. The same way that the federal government doesn't know whether you are a good teacher or not, they also don't really know what curriculum is the best. I think more innovation would be by giving more freedom to the states and localities. So I'm for less federal control of education and more local control.

VAN SUSTEREN: And you see that Justice Scalia, he said that the Constitution empowers the federal government to tax individual income. But he suggested that if people don't like taxes, they might consider -- this was at the university law school -- a revolt or something like that.

PAUL: Yeah, I hope he warned them the consequences of revolt against the government. There are consequences. I think, really, if he means the form of revolt should be at the ballot box, I wholeheartedly agree. And there should be an electoral revolt against the tax system we have and we should throw the people out who have given us this crummy tax system. And we should begin immediately changing the tax system to keep American companies at home and keep them from migrating from overseas because of our onerous tax system.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, nice to see you, sir.

PAUL: Thanks, Greta.