Freshman senator Rand Paul from Kentucky delivered his first floor speech to the Senate this morning, a relatively rare opportunity for a new arrival to the Senate. Paul is a Tea Party favorite, and his twenty-minute address demonstrated that he does not brew weak tea.
The concept of “compromise” was on his mind. He began by noting that he occupies the desk of Henry Clay, who represented Kentucky in the U.S. Senate at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Clay was known as “The Great Compromiser,” but Paul said his compromises on slavery, including support for the Fugitive Slave Act and the extension of slavery into Arkansas, were “morally wrong.”
Paul contrasted Henry Clay with his cousin Cassius Clay, an uncompromising abolitionist. It was said of Cassius Clay that “his pen was his first weapon, a Bowie knife his second. He was so effective with the first weapon that he needed the second.” Paul went on to recount how Cassius Clay’s refusal to compromise did indeed require use of that second weapon – he brought a knife to a gunfight, and won.
“Who are our heroes?” asked Paul. “Are we fascinated and enthralled by the Great Compromisers?” He maintained that an uncompromising commitment to reduced government spending is the only way to save ourselves from financial ruin. He noted that government currently spends 25% of our Gross Domestic Product, while “entitlements and interest will soon consume the entire federal budget.”
Paul cautioned against accepting any bargain that sought to resolve the deficit through raising taxes. “Compromise must occur on where we cut spending,” he declared, suggesting Republicans should be willing to consider cuts in military spending, if Democrats will accept vast cuts in domestic spending. He dismissed the President’s talk of spending freezes from the State of the Union address, noting that “freezing domestic spending at zero levels does nothing” to resolve our financial crisis.
“The debt bomb looms, and grows perilously large,” Paul warned. Just as “Cassius Clay refused to compromise the life of any human, simply to find agreement,” he is determined not to compromise the liberty or prosperity of Americans to reach an agreement on our government debt crisis. His first address to the Senate leaves no doubt of where he stands, and makes it clear he knows exactly where he is sitting.