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U.S. Sen. Rand Paul capped a busy day of appearances Tuesday at Elizabethtown Christian Academy and his first words to the crowd of more than 300 was more a declaration than a hello.
“Does anyone here still want to defund Obamacare?” Paul asked, receiving a hearty ovation from the crowd, which was brought together by the Central Kentucky Tea Party Patriots.
The push to pull funding has fallen on deaf ears in Washington and draws groans from other lawmakers who have urged Paul to move on, but he said he is undaunted by the rebukes because he promised voters he would fight to remove the controversial healthcare reform law that mandates healthcare coverage.
Paul said if opponents of the plan are unable to cut funding to the legislation they may be able to delay its activation, giving them more time to show Americans how much it will cost.
Paul said the law fails to help those it targets and saddles low-income workers to expensive healthcare plans they cannot afford.
Returning to Kentucky during Congress’ August recess, Paul promoted his belief in the Constitution and Bill of Rights by criticizing the country’s use of surveillance drones while denouncing indefinite detention and a systematic collection of phone data on Americans by the federal government. He also targeted former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for what he described as her “malfeasance” and “culpability” in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, last year that killed four Americans.
Paul has grilled Clinton personally about the attacks and told the crowd in Elizabethtown that security asked for by the ambassador should have been provided and Marines inside the country should have been employed to fend off the attack.
If those requests for aid were not brought to Clinton and she did not personally intercept the cables, it was “inexcusable,” he said.
“If that doesn’t get to your desk, you’re not doing your job,” he said.
Paul has not hid his inclinations to pursue the GOP nomination for president in 2016 while Clinton is expected to be a frontrunner for Democrats once President Barack Obama leaves office.
“Hillary Clinton has (shown) she’s not eligible or qualified for higher office,” Paul said.
Turning to recent scandals, Paul said he was disappointed to learn the U.S. was collecting massive amounts of phone records from Americans without the procurement of a warrant, which he views as a violation of the Bill of Rights.
He referenced his 13-hour filibuster against drone strikes on U.S. citizens in which he pushed the Obama administration to formally declare it will not target and kill its own citizens on U.S. soil if they are noncombatants and do not pose an imminent threat.
Paul also has opposed the endorsement of indefinite detention by the federal government, which ostensibly allows the U.S. to arrest and detain someone and withhold their right to a trial if they are believed to pose a threat to the country or are suspected of aiding enemy forces.
The problem, Paul said, is many of the criteria used to profile a threat could be applied to common citizens, which he believes makes the policy dangerous.
Paul, too, has been critical of the use of drones with the capacity to collect surveillance on ordinary citizens. He has discussed the program with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and sought clarification on when and how it is used, he said. The FBI has stated it only uses unmanned aerial drones in relation to active investigations or matters of national security, but Paul asserted that citizens do not have much expectation of privacy under the program.
Paul did say he believes the country can strike a healthy balance between its pursuit of terrorists and its protection of civil liberties, referencing the Boston Marathon bombing and the ensuing manhunt for brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev. Tamerlan was killed, but Dzhokar was detained and will be tried for his part in the bombings, which killed three and injured more than 260 people.
“What separates us from them is we didn’t drag him through the streets,” Paul said. “We didn’t beat him to death with tire irons.”
During a brief question-and-answer session after his speech, Paul was asked if he would endorse GOP candidate Matt Bevin for the U.S. Senate, who is opposing incumbent Republican Sen. Mitch McConnell. Bevin was in attendance for Paul’s speech.
The Bowling Green Republican has endorsed McConnell in the past and did not rescind his support for the Senate minority leader during the Elizabethtown stop. Instead, he pledged to stay out of the primary race.
“You won’t see me getting in the middle bashing either side,” Paul said.
Marty Finley can be reached at (270) 505-1762 or firstname.lastname@example.org.