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Ron Paul defends earmarks, says anti-pork McCain is just grandstanding

Libertarian Republican Rep. Ron Paul running for presidency in 2008

Ron Paul, the Texas congressman who is the darling of the Libertarian Right, has more earmarks in the pork-laden $410-billion spending bill than any other Republican.

That's not according to the MSM, or the liberal blogosphere. That's what Fox News is reporting.

In an interview Tuesday  night with Fox News' Neil Cavuto, Paul not only defended his own earmarks, he argued that every penny in the federal budget should be earmarked, to improve transparency.

Paul, a fiscal watchdog who said he voted against the bill because he believes federal spending is out of control, acknowledged that $73 million in the bill passed by his colleagues "might be" going to his district on Texas' Gulf Coast for things like the intra-coastal waterway, the Texas City channel and Wallisville Lake. But he was fine with that, noting that he always votes for tax credits, not matter how "silly," to return money to the constituents who sent their tax dollars to Washington.

The principle of the earmark is our responsibility. We're supposed to — it's like a — a tax credit. And I vote for all tax credits, no matter how silly they might seem. If I can give you any of you of your money back, I vote for it. So, if I can give my district any money back, I encourage that. But, because the budget is out of control, I haven't voted for an appropriation in years — if ever. ...

I don't think the federal government should be doing it. But, if they're going to allot the money, I have a responsibility to represent my people. If they say, hey, look, put in a highway for the district, I put it in. I put in all their requests, because I'm their representative.

Today President Obama unveils an earmark reform bill of his own. Paul suggested that doing away with earmarks is a back-door way for the executive branch to gain power over the legislative branch.

The whole idea that you vote against an earmark, you don't save a penny. That just goes to the administration and they get to allocate the funds.... If you don't earmark something, then somebody else spends it and there's no transparency.

And that, he said, is something Pork Enemy # 1 Arizona Sen. John McCain just doesn't get.

CAVUTO: But would you argue, then, sir, that, when John McCain was here saying the whole earmark thing itself is what's out of control?

PAUL: Oh, no, no. He — he — he totally misunderstands that. That's grandstanding.

If you cut off all the earmarks, it would be 1 percent of the budget. But, if you vote against all the earmarks, you don't cut one penny. That is what you have to listen to. We're talking about who has the responsibility, the Congress or the executive branch?

Incidentally, some avid Paul supporters, who rallied to his cause during the presidential campaign, are hoping to draft his son Rand Paul to run for the Senate from Kentucky next year.  Rand Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon named for Libertarian icon Ayn Rand, is considering a run if Sen. Jim Bunning retires, as many in state Republican circles are hoping the unpopular former major league pitcher will do.

If he does run, says Rand Paul, his approach to politics would be similar to his father's. "We both believe in limited government," he said. 

Read the full transcript of Paul's interview below.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo: Associated Press

Transcript from "Your World With Neil Cavuto," March 10, 2009.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST: Speaking of a lot of money, the battle about the money they're spending on Capitol Hill and, ironically, this guy is being targeted as maybe spending the most or at least earmarking the most for his constituents. He says it isn't fair.

But we thought it only fair to give him his due and explain what is going on. I'm talking about Texas congressman and former presidential candidate, Ron Paul.

Congressman, the rap is that you're a porker, that — that a lot of pork, $73 million-plus, went to your district. Is that true?

REP. RON PAUL, R-TEXAS: Well, it might be.

But I think you're missing the whole point. I have never voted for an earmark. I voted against all appropriation bills. So, this whole thing about earmarks is totally misunderstood.

Earmarks is the responsibility of the Congress. We should earmark even more. We should earmark every penny. So, that's the principle that we have to follow and the — and the responsibility of the Congress. The whole idea that you vote against an earmark, you don't save a penny. That just goes to the administration and they get to allocate the funds.

CAVUTO: Well, then, who — who — who proposes the bridge or the highway or the school? How does that even get in there?

PAUL: I have no idea. But the most important thing is to have transparency.

If you don't earmark something, then somebody else spends it and there's no transparency. So, the principle of the earmark is very crucial. But we need more earmarks.

The reason that we don't have — didn't have earmarks, you know, in that $350 billion on TARP funds...

CAVUTO: Right.

PAUL: We needed to earmark every single thing. We need to earmark every single thing the Fed does. So, this whole thing, this charade — this is a charade.

CAVUTO: No, no, I understand.

But you know what? It just strikes people as a little weird, congressman, because, you know, you champion and rail against government waste. And I know you rejected and voted against this package. But, yet, your constituents are going to benefit to the tune of more than $73 million in various projects from this package.

So, it's kind of like you're having your cake and eating it, too.

PAUL: But — but, Neil — Neil, you're — you're missing the whole point.

The principle of the earmark is our responsibility. We're supposed to — it's like a — a tax credit. And I vote for all tax credits, no matter how silly they might seem. If I can give you any of you of your money back, I vote for it. So, if I can give my district any money back, I encourage that.

But, because the budget is out of control, I haven't voted for an appropriation in years — if ever.

CAVUTO: But would you argue, then, sir, that, when John McCain was here saying the whole earmark thing itself is what's out of control?

PAUL: Oh, no, no. He — he — he totally misunderstands that. That's grandstanding.

If you cut off all the earmarks, it would be 1%  of the budget. But, if you vote against all the earmarks, you don't cut one penny. That is what you have to listen to. We're talking about who has the responsibility, the Congress or the executive branch?

I'm saying, get it out of the hands of the executive branch. Just listen again about what I have said about the TARP funds. We needed to earmark every penny. Now we gave them $350 billion, no earmarks, and nobody knows....

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: You're right about....

PAUL: OK. But then I'm right about the whole issue.

(CROSSTALK)

CAVUTO: But are you saying, then — are you saying, then, congressman, that the moneys that you appropriated, whether for the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, the Texas City Channel, Wallisville Lake, the City of Bay City, that rehab center — that that's money in the aggregate that you would have called waste?

PAUL: It's the kind I don't vote for, because I don't think the federal government should be doing it. But, if they're going to allot the money, I have a responsibility to represent my people.

If they say, hey, look, put in a highway for the district, I put it in. I put in all their requests, because I'm their representative.

But, if you put an earmark for a bridge in Iraq, it's not called an earmark. If you build military equipment in somebody's city....

CAVUTO: So, you don't think their requests are wastes? You don't think their requests are wastes?

PAUL: Well, no, it's — it's — it shouldn't be done. There's a better way to do it.

CAVUTO: Right.

PAUL: But, if you're going to spend the money, the Congress has the responsibility. It's better to spend it on a bridge here than spend it on a bridge in Iraq, and blow it up, and then build it up again.

Those are the kind of earmarks they don't count.

CAVUTO: All right.

PAUL: So, you have to count...

CAVUTO: All right, Congressman.

PAUL: You have to look at the responsibility of the Congress to earmark every single penny.

CAVUTO: Congressman, thank you very much.

 
Comments () | Archives (8)

The comments to this entry are closed.

Wow godo read.

braiden harvey

I believe Ron Paul is being sincere here, but I think the American people need a more thorough explanation of what he is trying to say and how this all works. I wish they had a little more time to go into it.

What I like about you, is you allow comments. Some of the Texas papers trying to posture RP's earmarks as an inconsistency, do not.

Wars were fought to give the legislature the power of the purse. The Magna Carta enshrined that principle, that the executive (King) should not have all economic power or all are dependent on the executive. This was adopted in our Constitution's separation of powers, and is why the line item veto has been stricken down as unconstitutional.

However, if Congress in huge spending bills gives the executive branch a blank check, how are they preserving separation of powers? The money will still be spent, since earmarks add nothing to the total cost of the bill, but it will be spent behind closed doors by unelected functionaries. The bridge to nowhere earmark was cut, but the money was still given to Alaska - for the bridge to nowhere. It just was no longer an earmark.

I've seen headlines (VERY briefly) about $2.3 TRILLION going missing in the Pentagon in 2004. http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=385x15803 That is spending by the executive branch.

Congress is SUPPOSED to say where the money goes. Ron Paul doesn't want the money spent at all, so when it comes to voting on the actual bill, he votes against it. However, when they are discussing where the money will go IF it is going to be spent anyhow, and if his constituents will be forced to pay their share, anyhow, he represents his constituents to get back for them the crumbs (compared to the total) that he can.

Ms. Neuman is incorrect in saying that Rand is named after Ayn Rand. That was the first question I asked him (Rand) when I met him last year--he said that he was NOT named after her. Did you just guess this Ms. Neuman--if so, you should not present it as fact--that would be pretty shoddy. You should say that you surmise it. Otherwise it's heresay and a good reporter corroborates heresay.

A congressman earmarks money already set aside by the federal budget. It puts the money (taxes) back into the congressional district. Better it be in the local economy than the centralized federal government. Ron Paul is the best at getting his peoples' taxes back into the district. If it were up to him they would never have had to pay in in the first place.

Please note, Ron Paul is not a "darling of the Libertarian Right." While we on the Libertarian Right absolutely love his economic policies, we absolutely abhor his more Leftist views on foreign policy, particularly his opposition to the Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Eric Dondero, Editor
Libertarian Republican

(BTW, LA Times thanks for the link above to an article we wrote on Rand Paul)

His son's name is Randall. Rand is short for that.

Oh yeah, opposing the misguided and wasteful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq is "leftist." Eric Dondero, you don't speak for the libertarian movement. The true libertarian movement is larger than the libertarian right, and we abhor your support of naive attempts to manipulate and control extremely complex interactions across the world. It is not lack of attention to terrorism that poses a threat to this country, it is the paranoid, interventionist mentality of those who are drawn into engagement with fanatics, fanatics who would love nothing more than to see the U.S. stretched thin by its obsessive pursuit of "the terrorists."


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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