This is significant. Paul has often stressed that his non-interventionist foreign policy isn't isolationist, but he has also clearly been on the more dovish side of the GOP, particularly when it comes to curtailing foreign aid and avoiding unnecessary wars.
The problem is, the dovish portion of the GOP is a fast-shrinking constituency in the 2016 presidential race. While it was trendy not long ago, as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have drawn down and the Islamic State has taken hold, the Republican Party has very much reverted to a more hawkish footing akin to where it was during the Bush administration. And it has happened very quickly.
To wit, this poll from September:
In less than a year, the percentage of Republicans who said the United States was doing "too little" overseas jumped from 18 percent to 46 percent. That's the kind of massive shift you rarely see in such a short period of time. And it belied what has long been true of the GOP; when there is reason to be hawkish, today's Republican Party will be hawkish.
And right now, they have reason to be hawkish. A recent CNN poll, in fact, showed seven in 10 Republicans define themselves as "hawks" -- versus 25 percent "doves."
Paul's libertarian/non-interventionist supporters, needless to say, won't be enamored of this development. Here's Reason.com editor in chief Nick Gillespie
Paul senior adviser Doug Stafford said the amendment is meant to offer an alternative to others who want to increase defense spending but without paying for it.
"Sen. Paul believes national defense should be our priority," Stafford said. "He also believes our debt is out of control. This amendment is to lay down a marker that if you believe we need more funding for national defense, you should show how you would pay for it. No one should be seeking increased funding for anything by increasing our debt."
Call it a pragmatism or call it a flip-flop, the practical and political effect is the same. Rather than continue to try to appeal to a more limited cross-section of the party, Paul seems to be trying to split the difference and prove that he's no dove. Whenever someone accuses him of being soft on defense, you can rest assured he'll cite the above.
And what could better signify the GOP reverting to its more-hawkish footing like a member of the Paul family calling for an increase in defense spending?