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Ron Paul’s constitutionalist record (Fact Checker biography)

at 06:02 AM ET, 12/29/2011


(Joshua Lott, Reuters)

“Dr. Paul never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution. In the words of former Treasury Secretary William Simon, Dr. Paul is the ‘one exception to the Gang of 535’ on Capitol Hill.”

-- Biographical excerpt from the Ron Paul campaign site

“I have something different to offer. I emphasize civil liberties. I emphasize a pro- American foreign policy, which is a lot different than policemen of the world. I emphasize monetary policy and these things that the other candidates don’t talk about. But I think the important thing is, the philosophy I’m talking about is the Constitution and freedom.”

-- Paul, during Fox News GOP debate, Dec. 15, 2011

Paul has long portrayed himself as a constitutionalist, one who supports limited government and who values individual liberty above all else.

The term constitutionalist holds various meanings and incorporates numerous philosophies, but the main premise is that the government derives its powers from the Constitution. Paul applies the definition strictly, calling for the abolition of all federal programs not expressly authorized by the document.

We examined Paul’s record to find out whether he has lived up to his rhetoric. Could he really spend nearly 22 years in Congress without violating his principles?

THE FACTS

Paul has earned the nickname “Dr. No” for refusing to cut deals and for opposing virtually every piece of legislation that could be interpreted as government overreach or interference with the free market.

The congressman’s unwillingness to budge has made him a political loner at times. Congressional Quarterly noted in 1999 that he cast the lone `no’ vote in the U.S. House nearly twice as many times as all other members combined, a fact that Texas Monthly cited in 2001.

The Washington Post’s vote tracker shows that Paul voted with his party just 73 percent of the time during the 2011 congressional session, despite working in an exceptionally party-loyal House. By comparison, Sen. John McCain, known as a maverick within the GOP, voted with Senate Republicans 92 percent of the time.

Beyond his voting record, the Texas libertarian has had a hard time gaining support for his proposals. The Post’s David Fahrenthold reported that just four of the 620 Paul-sponsored measures have made it to the House floor for a vote, and only one has become law.

Paul has been a consistent champion of smaller government, calling for elimination of various departments and agencies such as the IRS, the Federal Reserve and the Department of Education. The first bill he introduced as a congressman back in 1976 would have eliminated the then-newly-formed Occupational Safety and Health Administration -- the measure failed to make it out of committee.

The surging GOP candidate has argued for a gradual return to the gold standard. Speaking of President Richard Nixon’s decision to abandon the system, he said: “After that day, all money would be political money rather than money of real value. I was astounded.”

Paul goes to great lengths to practice what he preaches, refusing to register for his federal pension and returning unused money from his congressional office. He has also spurned federal funds as a physician, opting to work on Medicare and Medicaid patients for free.

The Texas congressman has also voted against the interests of many of his constituents at times, opposing federal flood insurance and farm subsidies in the agriculturally-focused, coastal district he represents.

Paul has opposed international aid, saying the government should not force taxpayers to “pay for foreign welfare.” He argues that citizens and private organizations should donate independently to charity if they want to help a good cause.

The congressman has also opposed domestic aid, having voted against funding for victims of Hurricane Katrina. He asked at the time: “Is bailing out people that chose to live on the coastline a proper function of the federal government? Why do people in Arizona have to be robbed in order to support the people of the coast?”

Paul has spoken out against the Civil Rights Act, voting in 2004 against a bill honoring the 1964 measure. He has said the legislation “did not improve race relations or enhance freedom,” but instead “increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.”

Paul has also called for the U.S. to reduce its global military presence. ”I wouldn’t have a military-industrial complex that demands so much, but I wouldn’t have a welfare state either,” he said during a March interview on MSNBC. “And under those conditions, you don’t need an income tax. And I think that’s the way it should be.”

We found one contradiction in Paul’s recent voting record: he supported federal funding for an education program this year, agreeing to reauthorizing the D.C. opportunity scholarship initiative that provides charter-school vouchers for children living in the nation’s capital. However, the bill was later revised, and he voted against it.

The Paul campaign did not respond to a Fact Checker request for an explanation of why the candidate supported the original bill to renew the D.C. opportunity scholarship program.

Paul has voted overwhelmingly against federal involvement in schools during his political career, having opposed No Child Left Behind, Race to the Top, funding for Hispanic and black colleges, and even incentives to retrofit schools with environmentally friendly features.

THE PINOCCHIO TEST

Paul has distinguished himself as the most consistent candidate in the GOP field. He votes according to his principles almost 100 percent of the time, establishing a reputation as an uncompromising representative. In short, voters know exactly what to expect from him -- which should make it easy to decide whether to vote for him.

We’re won’t weigh in on the merit of Paul’s ideas, but it’s clear from our research that he sticks to his beliefs and rarely contradicts himself. He earns a prized Geppetto’s checkmark for being an unwavering constitutionalist, at least by his definition of the term.

GEPPETTO’S CHECKMARK





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    About the Blogger

    Glenn Kessler has covered foreign policy, economic policy, the White House, Congress, politics, airline safety and Wall Street.

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