In an interview with the conservative website Newsmax yesterday, Sen.-elect Rand Paul (R-KY) said he opposes any effort by Republicans to shut down the federal government, as they did when Bill Clinton was president in 1995. “I think shutting down the government is a mistake. Nobody really wants that. That’s sort of government by chaos,” Paul said. “What you really want is government where we say, ‘We have several months to discuss this. Let’s go ahead and have a budget.'”
Paul told Newsmax that he wants this budget discussion to start around the goal of an almost immediately balanced budget: “We’ll give them a choice: Balance it in one year, balance it in two years. We’ll give them a choice,” he told Newsmax. “But I think balancing it over a 30- or 40-year period is not reasonable. And I think that we may not have 30 or 40 years to balance the budget before we have a crisis in this country.” Watch it:
Paul’s stance is a rebuke to many Republicans who have openly called for a government shutdown. As ThinkProgress reported this morning, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) said, “if it takes a shutdown of government to stop the runaway spending, we owe that to our children and our grandchildren.” Numerous other Republican leaders and candidates have expressly called for a shutdown.
Paul’s comments also appear to be a further hardening of his opposition to using a vote on the federal debt ceiling to shut down the government. While he has said he opposes raising the debt ceiling, he told Politico he doesn’t think Republicans will successfully block a raise. In the Newsmax interview, reporter David Patten frames his shutdown question in context of the debt ceiling, and Paul’s answer further suggests he does not actually oppose raising the debt ceiling.
However, Paul’s plan for a balanced budget would almost certainly cause “chaos” and even possibly a shutdown if Republicans stand behind him. Offering Congress a “choice” between balancing the budget in one year or two, as Paul proposes, is offering a choice between two entirely impossible goals. The federal budget deficit was $1.3 trillion in fiscal year 2010, and finding enough cuts to reduce the budget by that amount in a matter of one or two years is something “no sane person should consider possible,” as Steve Benen notes. It will be interesting, however, to see how Paul squares that circle when he releases his proposal to balance the budget in January — and how dedicated he is to getting it passed, even if it contradicts his opposition to a government shutdown.