Rand Paul is best known as a libertarian, Senate force-of-one and Kentucky Tea Party favorite. He is prolific (lead sponsor on 353 bills in four years) and the second generation in a father-son dynasty of doctors running for president. As he enters the campaign ring, here is a look at where Paul falls on 10 major issues.
The Budget: Balance the budget. Slash spending, but raise defense.
Paul has outlined one of the most aggressive spending cut proposals in Congress — it would balance the federal budget within five years. At the same time, in 2015 Paul ended years of calling for cutbacks in defense spending and proposed increasing the Pentagon’s budget by $190 billion.
Government power: Repeal the Patriot Act. End large-scale data collection.
Paul adamantly opposes the Patriot Act and granting government any warrantless or unilateral data collection powers over private citizens. Last year, he filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration for its collection of cellphone records. That case is still working its way through courts. Paul also has pushed to end any indefinite detention of American citizens.
Government size: Shut down Department of Education. And the TSA.
The Department of Education would dissolve under a Paul proposal. He would close the agency and disperse funding to state and local programs. In addition, the senator has proposed shutting down the Transportation Security Administration and privatizing the security service. On the IRS, Paul has indicated he would reform the agency and has not said he would close it.
Immigration: Reform, with some requirements.
A self-described “moderate” on the issue, Paul has said the Republican party needs to welcome immigrants and that he could support immigration reform if it includes verifiable border security and an increase in legal immigration, especially more visas for agricultural workers.
Justice: Allow more felons to vote. Reform sentencing.
Paul would restore voting rights to some non-violent felons and would redefine some drug offenses as misdemeanors. In addition he would eliminate any difference between punishment for powder and crack cocaine violations and give judges greater leeway to hand down lower-than-mandatory sentences.
Social Issues: The U.S. should consider taking marriage out of government’s hands. Limit abortion, but do not overturn Roe v. Wade.
Two days after the Supreme Court decision upholding gay marriage, Paul wrote an Op-Ed in Time, disagreeing with the court’s decision and arguing that government should not be in the marriage business. Paul questioned “whether or not governmental recognition of marriage is a good idea, for either party.” Personally, Paul believes marriage is between one man and one woman.
The Kentucky senator has repeatedly stated he believes life begins at conception and should be protected in the womb. But he also has said that he does not think the law legalizing abortion could be overturned now because the country is “somewhere in the middle” on the issue.
Taxes: Institute a flat tax of 17 percent or lower.
The Kentucky senator proposes to erase many tax deductions, though he has not yet outlined precisely which ones, and instead install a lower “flat tax” for all income levels. An aide said last year that the rate would not be larger than 17 percent.
Foreign Aid: End it.
In general, Sen. Paul opposes using U.S. funds for foreign aid. In 2011, his budget proposal would have eliminated all foreign aid, including aid to Israel, according to Politifact. He later supported proposals that included billions in aid for Israel, though he has said that ultimately it would be ideal for both countries to phase out the aid.
Iran: Sanctions and diplomacy first
Paul has supported sanctions and diplomacy in dealing with Iran. He argues that the U.S. should avoid military involvement. According to Bloomberg, a spokesman said the senator is reviewing the current framework agreement. Paul has co-sponsored a bill which gives Congress 60 days to review the deal. Last year, Paul wrote an Op-Ed clarifying that he does not support containment/acceptance of a nuclear Iran, but sees the issue as complicated.
Islamic State: Arm the Kurds, declare war. Limited troops.
The senator’s position is best spelled out in a September Op-Ed he wrote in Time Magazine: He supports arming Kurdish allies in the region but has blasted the Obama administration decision to arm rebels in Syria. Above all, Paul believes the president needs a Congressionally-passed war powers authorization or, as he has proposed, a declaration of war. He would allow for U.S. troops on the ground to protect Americans or for use against “high value targets.”