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Ron Paul argues for earmarks

TOP OF THE TICKET

'It's like a tax credit,' the Texas libertarian tells Fox News. 'If I can give my district any money back, I encourage that.'

March 15, 2009|Johanna Neuman

WASHINGTON — 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.

"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 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."

On Wednesday President Obama unveiled an earmark reform bill of his own.

Paul suggested that doing away with earmarks was 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 No. 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% 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 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 GOP Sen. Jim Bunning retires, as many Kentucky Republicans hope he will. .

Like father, like son: "We both believe in limited government," Rand Paul said.

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Biden rallies the NATO troops

Vice President Joe Biden has become the go-to guy of the Obama administration, called on to handle every problem from middle-class prosperity to oversight of the government's mega-billion-dollar economic recovery plan.

Quite a contrast to Vice President Dick Cheney, who spent his eight years in office commissioning legal briefs that reasserted the executive branch's power over many aspects of our lives. As the Washington Post's op-ed columnist Jim Hoagland put it, "Joe the Glad-Handing Mechanic has replaced Dick the Secretive Influencer. Sunny, visible and verbose have chased gloomy, occult and clipped from the office."

On Tuesday, Biden's role was to assure NATO allies that after eight years of the brushoff from Washington, the Obama administration wants to rejoin the team. With the White House already committing 17,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan to bolster the 38,000 that President Bush already sent there, Biden told the 26-member European alliance that it was not too late to rescue the onetime Taliban stronghold where intelligence agencies believe Osama bin Laden plotted the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks:

"The deteriorating situation in the region poses a security threat not just to the United States but to every single nation around this table. . . . I want to make it clear to you, from the perspective of the average United States citizen, an attack, a terrorist attack in Europe is viewed as an attack on us. That is not hyperbole -- that is not hyperbole -- because we understand and we view it as an attack on the West. And we view it as a gateway to further attacks on the United States."

After three hours of talks with Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and other members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Biden told reporters in Brussels that options include direct talks with so-called moderate elements of the Taliban, those involved in the insurgency only for the money.

Biden cautioned that such an outreach would have to come not from Washington but from Kabul.

"Whatever is initiated will have to be ultimately initiated by the Afghan government, and will have to be such that it would not undermine a legitimate Afghan government. But I do think it is worth engaging and determining whether or not there are those who are willing to participate in a secure and stable Afghan state."

As he told the allies, "We are not now winning the war, but the war is far from lost."

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Read Top of The Ticket, The Times' blog on national politics, at latimes.com/ticket.

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