Rand Paul Talks State Of The Union, His State And His Party

Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky gave one of several GOP responses to the president's State of the Union on Tuesday night. Audie Cornish speaks with Paul about both his response and the state of his party.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Last night, President Obama laid out his agenda for the coming year and there was no shortage of Republican responses.

SIEGEL: Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers gave the official rebuttal. Senator Mike Lee spoke for the Tea Party. And then, there was an online response from Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky. And Senator Paul spoke to Audie today.

CORNISH: Senator Paul, welcome to the program.

SENATOR RAND PAUL: Glad to be with you.

CORNISH: Now, you've said that you don't consider your State of the Union Response to be competing with other GOP voices. But how do you convince the independent voter out there who sees this kind of mishmash of responses from various Republicans and no definitive agenda?

PAUL: Well, you know, I think the competition for those voters who seem to hold sway over who wins elections, you know, the ones who sometimes will vote Republican, sometimes Democrat, who consider themselves to be independent. I think the real question is what policies are working and what aren't working. I think these are people who aren't necessarily partisan. They want to know how you're going to fix a problem. Right now, we have about 20 million people out of work - either out of work, working part time or given up looking - 20 million people. The...

CORNISH: But do you think there's a real sense of what those policies actually area?

PAUL: Yeah. If you measure unemployment the way we measured unemployment in the 1970s, we'd have double digit or probably 13 percent unemployment. So the question is, are the current policies that President Obama is talking about, policies that take money from the private sector, give it to the public sector, Washington, and then expect it to come back and create jobs, is it working?

We have 18 percent unemployment in Detroit. I would say there's an argument it's not working and that we ought to look for other policies. Our policies are we would lower taxes for business that are in existence and employing people and see if they'll hire more people.

CORNISH: Now, President Obama also last night put some focus on your state of Kentucky. The governor, Steve Beshear, was there. And that's because Kentucky's online health insurance exchange, Kynect, is considered to be doing quite well. Given how well Kentucky has done running this online exchange, should more states have agreed to participate?

PAUL: I would say alleged to be running well. I'm from Kentucky, and I think it's a disaster. Two-hundred-and-fifty thousand people have been cancelled from their insurance and about 60,000 have been signed up. Of the 60,000 people who signed up, 85 percent of them were signed up for Medicaid. I know this 'cause I tried to sign my son up and they put him automatically into Medicaid.

CORNISH: Now, if Republicans eventually succeed in gaining control and having the votes to repeal and replace Obamacare, what is the plan to do with all of the people who will inevitably be taking insurance away from who could number in the millions in that point?

PAUL: Yeah, I don't think any Republicans were taking away insurance. What we work for is providing more choices and less expensive healthcare. I practiced medicine for 20 years, and the biggest complaint I got was that health insurance cost too much. And so what we need is more competition but more choices.

So the president has mandated that you have to buy the insurance that he dictates. And when he's narrowed these choices and he's said that you have mandates that have to be covered, then it makes your insurance more expensive. Republicans would do the opposite. We'd have more competition, more kinds of insurance and lesser premiums or lower costs for the consumer.

CORNISH: Another issue the president spoke about was women and workplace equality. Democrats have been campaigning on this pitch for quite sometime that there's a Republican war on women. But you've said if there's a war on women, women are winning it. How do you respond to the criticism that this is dismissive of real concerns some women votes have?

PAUL: What I can say is that when you look at the marketplace, young women are doing fabulously well. So I think the people who are talking about this war on women really aren't actually looking at the facts. When you look at the facts, young women are out-competing young men in school, graduate schools. So, really, I think that you can stay stuck in the past or you can look at how things have greatly improved. I tend to look and see that glass half-full, and it is so much better than it used to be that I think people are missing the future by complaining so much.

CORNISH: And you write that especially for millennial women, they're making 93 percent of what men make. But, you know, for the average woman, it's still 77 cents for every man's dollar. And for black women, that's 64 cents.

PAUL: Yeah. And if you - if you equal...

CORNISH: I mean, what does that mean (unintelligible)?

PAUL: If you equalize people based on exact professions and exact time spent and time spent away, they're virtually the same. So the thing is it's not perfect yet. It's heading in the right direction. And so for people to concoct something and say, oh, one party doesn't like women, it's the farthest thing from the truth. And, really, it's just partisan gamesmanship is what it is from the other side.

CORNISH: Senator Rand Paul, Republican from Kentucky, thanks for speaking with us.

PAUL: All right. Thanks.

CORNISH: Senator Paul gave his own response to the president's State of the Union Address last night.

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