Exclusive: One-on-one with presidential candidate Rand Paul

This is a rush transcript from "Hannity," April 7, 2015. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

SEAN HANNITY, HOST: And joining me now is Republican -- welcome -- Senator Rand Paul.  How are you?


HANNITY: Very passionate crowd.

You said today, I -- we're here to take America back, and that you are a different kind of Republican. What does that mean?

SEN. RAND PAUL, R-KY.: I think so often, we get people who are elected and they spend decade after decade up there. They lose touch with the people and then nothing changes. We elect Republicans that say, We want Republicans to balance the budget, then Republicans do the same things the Democrats do.

I ran for office originally as part of this Tea Party Movement because we were upset with Republicans who've doubled the debt. We were upset with Republicans that bailed out the banks. And I still think that now that Republicans are in charge of Congress, we need to stand for something. We need to stand for truly reducing spending.

HANNITY: What do you mean -- when you say, "Defeat the Washington machine and unleash the American dream," are you saying the Republican Party is a big part of the problem?

PAUL: It's a bipartisan problem, both sides, no matter what the spending plan that comes up. If the Democrats have a spending plan for domestic spending, they'll explode the debt at all costs. But sometimes, conservatives will do the same thing. They'll explode spending and not pay for it with spending cuts.

HANNITY: All right, it was interesting because one of your big applause lines today was they shouldn't spend more than they take in. Is $3 trillion enough? The next president of the United States will inherit the following -- $18 trillion to $20 trillion in debt, $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities. We have nearly 50 million Americans in poverty, nearly 50 million Americans on food stamps. We have the lowest labor participation rate since the '70s, and it's impacting women, minorities more than anybody else.

How would you -- specifically, how do you solve that problem of balancing a budget, paying down the debt, creating jobs, getting people out of poverty and off of food stamps?

PAUL: The bottom hand is there -- the bottom line is there are two sectors of the economy, the public sector, which is the non-productive sector, and the private sector, which is the engine that creates jobs. We need to leave more money in the private sector.

What does that mean? You have to reduce taxes. The last president we had was Ronald Reagan that said we're going to dramatically cut tax rates. And guess what? More revenue came in, but tens of millions of jobs were created.

The last couple of Republicans we've put forward, I couldn't tell you what we were for. I think we were for revenue-neutral tax reform. And in Washington, that's what passes for bold. They say, OK, half of you are going to pay more taxes and half of you are going to pay less, but the net result for the economy is zero.

So you help poverty and job creation by leaving more money with the people.

HANNITY: OK, more -- so cutting taxes is a part of it. You also want to change the tax code. You want a 17 percent flat tax. Is that revenue- neutral? Does that get people off of food stamps and out of poverty?

PAUL: My tax cut would cut hundreds of billions of dollars. So to do it, you have to be willing to cut spending, too. But if you were to cut hundreds of billions of dollars in taxes, that money's left in communities.

Like, for example, Detroit has 20 percent unemployment. It's a disaster.  Appalachia, my state, eastern Kentucky, has a large amount of poverty. No one's come up with a way to fix it because we're always trying to tax them and then give them back a little bit to help them.

Instead, we ought to leave the money in their communities because the money left will be left for productive people. The person who owns the Pizza Hut, the woman who owns the Walmart, the woman who owns this store or that store -- those people will create jobs. But it doesn't work to send it to Washington and then send it back.

HANNITY: You know with baseline budgeting, if you try as a senator to reduce even the rate of increase, baseline budgeting -- you know, I -- you and I have talked at length about the penny plan, for example. You cut one penny out of every dollar every year for six years. Democrats are going to have an image of Rand Paul throwing Granny over the cliff.

Do you think the American people are ready to actually, in real dollars, limit spending in government? And is that what you're saying you want to do?

PAUL: I don't think we've ever had a politician run for the presidency who stood up and said, I'm going to cut one penny out of every dollar, a real cut. And there maybe something you don't get from government, but that one penny out of a dollar will cause us to balance the budget within five years.

HANNITY: And one -- one penny across the board. But you want to also spend $190 billion more on defense.

PAUL: Right.

HANNITY: So you have to have flexibility?

PAUL: Well, exactly. I have a couple of ways to have flexibility. One, if you raise defense spending, which I think we do need defense spending, I would cut domestic spending the exact same amount.

That separates some conservatives in this race because there are conservatives, several of them who either are running or may run, who say, Oh, increase defense at all costs, but I don't care if you pay for it. I'm one who says, I will increase defense spending, but only if you pay for it by cutting other spending.

HANNITY: If you cut spending a penny across the board, does that mean you cut Medicare, Social Security? In other words, in real 2015 dollars, next year, it's going to be a penny less across the board -- with any exceptions?

PAUL: I think what -- I think what -- I think what you have to do is you throw that out and you say, We either do it 1 percent across the board, or maybe some programs, we cut 100 percent of.

So the Department of Commerce, $30 billion, $40 billion -- I consider most of it, if not all of it, to be corporate welfare. I would cut every bit of it. So I'd cut 100 percent of the Department of Commerce maybe so I don't have to cut the Social Security of someone who lives on Social Security.

So there are ways of doing it not across the board. But if you can't decide on it -- kind of like the sequester, if you don't make up your mind and you don't put a budget forward, then you'll get the sequester.

HANNITY: You talk a lot about the Constitution and returning to first principles. So two powers that the Congress has, advice and consent and the power of the purse. A lot of symbolic votes about repealing ObamaCare, but when it came to actually standing -- shutting down the government or being accused of shutting down the government, Republicans then would back off in those moments.

How do you characterize that?

PAUL: I think the problem is we all sort of quietly admit defeat before we get started. We all admit, Oh, we're not going to follow through very long and that we don't have the willpower to do it.

It's kind of like the debt ceiling vote. To raise the debt ceiling, what I've always said is let's don't raise it until we do entitlement reform.  Let's just hold firm. And people say, Oh, we would default.

I say, Oh, no. Let's take the tax money. We'll pay the interest. We'll meet our obligations, but then everything else would have to just stop and we'd -- it would bring the picture finally to the American people that we're spending -- you know, we borrow $1 million a minute. It's insane!

HANNITY: How do you -- how does Rand Paul define himself politically? If you ask -- I'm a registered Conservative in New York. If you ask me what I -- how I define myself politically, I'm a Reagan constitutional conservative. How do you define yourself?

PAUL: I like the words "constitutional conservative," but more and more over the last three or four years, I've come to believe that we need someone who stands up for the entire Bill of Rights. And I think one of the problems we have as a Republican Party is we're really good at defending the 2nd Amendment. And I am. I'm a great defender of the 2nd Amendment, but we've forgotten about some of the other amendments.

The 5th Amendment says you should get due process. The 6th Amendment says you can get a speedy trial. There are many people in our country, particularly minorities, who aren't being treated fairly. They're not getting due process. They're not getting a speedy trial.

I think if we showed equal deference and love for the 5th and 6th Amendment, and the 4th Amendment, the right to privacy, all of a sudden, there's a whole new group of people, young kids, college kids, African- Americans -- they're going to come and say, You know what? I want to...


HANNITY: ... because that's been a big part of your planning, outreach.  We just had a first-term senator elected president. This is your first term. You were a doctor for a lot of years. You still actually perform operations on the weekends sometimes, I guess pro bono.

But what do you say to those people who say, OK, Rand Paul -- does he have the experience as a first-term senator? It didn't work out the last time with Barack Obama.

PAUL: I think in all likelihood, the nominee and/or the next president will be somebody who's been elected to something. I think we're unlikely to get somebody that hasn't been elected to anything. But I think you can find good senators and bad senators, good governors and bad governors.

When Republicans ask me the question, I'd say, You do remember Jimmy Carter, right? You know, people who think it's automatic that a governor is better than a senator.

I think, really, people should be judged on their entire character. We should get to know them. We should know whether they have wisdom, whether they're well read, whether they're reckless, whether they're overly emotional and would react in a -- a way without thinking.

We're talking about electing someone who would be in charge of our nuclear weapons, someone who has their finger and able to launch nuclear weapons.  You don't want somebody who wants to be at war in 15 countries, who thinks that war is always the answer.

You want somebody who believes, as Reagan did, in peace through strength.  But Reagan was a person who also would negotiate. He ultimately did negotiate with the Russians.

HANNITY: Let me go through a few social issues with you, things that -- that I think have you stand out from some of your opponents. Abortion -- you say you are 100 percent pro-life, and you actually proposed the Life at Conception Act. Do you make any exceptions for abortion?

PAUL: I think that there's something special about life. I think -- I believe in God. I think it's not just, you know, that we can say, Oh, it's just another life, just throw it away. I think there's something unique and special, and there is a sanctity to life.

I worked as a -- in the nursery, the neonatal nursery, and I would see babies about a pound. And I'd hold them in my hand, the whole baby, and I could look into their eyes to try to check them for a type of blindness.  And everybody said that baby has the right to life because they said that baby's alive. The real debate is, when does life begin? When life begins, it deserves protection.

HANNITY: You believe at conception.

PAUL: Yes, but I -- but I can also...

HANNITY: What do you do in the case of a rape, incest, mother's life?

PAUL: Yes, and I do -- and I do -- and I do truly believe that, but I also understand that there can be a range of opinions and that to make life better and to protect more life, I'm willing to go for all kinds of in- between solutions. And I think the one thing that we agree on more than others is that a 5 or a 6-pound baby, even in the womb, absolutely has life.

HANNITY: In other words, post six months.

PAUL: Yes.

HANNITY: But would you make exceptions, rape, incest, mother's life?

PAUL: I've supported both legislation without and legislation with.


PAUL: I want people to know that I'm pro-life and that I'm open to trying to get incremental change, but I'm also open to promoting that there's something special life -- about life from the very beginning.

HANNITY: All right, you're pro-2nd Amendment. We don't have to spend a lot of time on that. Let's -- immigration is a huge issue. You said that it's impossible to get comprehensive immigration reform. So your position now is?

PAUL: My position always has been we should do little bits of what are doable and what, really, people believe in. Right now, we have 11 million people in the country who are said to be here illegally. Well, if you do nothing, you'll get 11 million more. So I think having no immigration reform is a non-starter. You need immigration reform.

But the first problem is, you have lawlessness on the border, and there's also a national security risk to people who just walk into our country. So the first thing you have to do is secure your border. I think there's a vast consensus on that. And if we had a bill to secure the border, it would pass.

But the Democrats, the liberals, the president, have wanted everything or nothing, so they've prevented the border from being secured. Also, realize that the laws in place actually allow for the president to secure the border. He's just not willing to do it. And there's been some of that for a while.

HANNITY: You talked a lot -- but you talked about registered provisional immigrants -- or a new visa program for the 11 million, but you're saying after you secure the border. What does -- what does that mean? Define what that is.

PAUL: The first thing you have to do is secure the border. But one interesting thing is while it might be barriers, it isn't, you know, 100- foot tall fence that's going to keep us safe.

You know one thing that protects us from illegal immigration? Legal immigration. So you have to have a good work program. I know many farmers in Kentucky, and they come up to me and they say, Well, I have 30 workers.

And I say, Well, are they -- any of them Americans? They say, No, they're all migrants. And I say, Well, do you advertise? They say, Yes, I'm forced to advertise to be in this program. I said, Have you ever had an American apply for a job? They've never had one American in 30 years apply for a job.

HANNITY: And 93 million Americans out of the -- out of the work -- labor force right now. All right, we got to take a break.

PAUL: Yes, but we've got to figure out how to get people back in.

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