In A Major Reversal, Rand Paul Pushes For Higher Defense Spending

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. speaks at the Heritage Foundation’s Conservative Policy Summit in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
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WASHINGTON — Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul filed an amendment to the Senate budget on Wednesday calling for a significant boost to defense spending, a reversal for the libertarian senator who has previously called for across-the-board cuts to domestic and military spending.

The amendment, filed without public notice and first reported by Time, is the latest of several moves by the Kentucky senator seemingly aimed at placating the GOP’s ascendant hawkish wing ahead of a reported campaign announcement next month.

Paul’s amendment would boost military spending by about $190 billion in fiscal 2016 and 2017 above levels proposed in the Senate Republican budget, offset with steep cuts to domestic federal programs.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), one of Paul’s potential 2016 rivals, introduced an amendment calling for a similar hike in defense spending that wasn’t offset.

Doug Stafford, a senior adviser to Paul, said in an email that his amendment was about making sure defense spending increases don’t add to the deficit.

“It is done in response to others in both chambers who are attempting to add to defense spending — some way more than Senator Paul’s amendment — without paying for it,” Stafford said. “Senator Paul believes national defense should be our priority. He also believes our debt is out of control. This amendment is to lay down a marker that if you believe we need more funding for national defense, you should show how you would pay for it. No one should be seeking increased funding for anything by increasing our debt.”

One of Paul’s signature issues has been a non-interventionist foreign policy and less U.S. military involvement around the world, a philosophy that was gaining traction among some Republicans before the emergence of the Islamic State threat. His budgets in prior years have called for reducing spending on defense.

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