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Rand Paul calls out hypocrisy of GOP in the Trump era

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Feb. 8 opposed a bipartisan budget deal and delayed a vote on the measure in the Senate, calling the GOP “complicit in the deficits.” (Video: U.S. Senate)

The latest politico pointing out just how much the Republican Party has changed under President Trump comes from the inside.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) delayed a Senate vote past midnight Thursday to mark his opposition to an estimated $320 billion addition to the federal budget deficit — something he called Republicans out for supporting: “If you were against President Obama's deficits, and now you're for the Republican deficits, isn't that the very definition of hypocrisy?”

Paul, known for his libertarian leanings, said the budget deal breaks past Republican pledges to rein in federal spending.

After GOP leaders refused to allow Paul to offer an amendment, he chose to use a Senate rule that allows individual senators to slow down proceedings that require the consent of all.

“I can’t in all good honesty, in all good faith, just look the other way because my party is now complicit in the deficits,” he said on the Senate floor.

The Daily 202: Rand Paul's short-lived shutdown is ending, but his warning about GOP deficit hypocrisy reverberates

Paul ran against Trump in the 2016 presidential primary, drawing attention to the president’s multiple bankruptcies as proof of his lack of a commitment to fiscal conservatism. When Trump pulled out of a January 2016 Fox News debate because the network declined his request to remove Megyn Kelly as moderator, Paul claimed that Trump might be backing away because the former Democrat isn’t a conservative.

He told CNN’s Alisyn Camerota: “Maybe [he's] afraid of the fact that he's never voted in a Republican presidential primary. For 70 years, he's been a progressive Democrat. I was wondering if maybe he's going to show up for the Democrat primary debate next time.”

“I think he does want to avoid difficult questions. And I think he's used to getting his way,” Paul added.

Paul has since been seen buddying up with Trump on the golf course. But his strongest words late into the night Thursday were for his fellow party members who attacked President Barack Obama for increased government spending but are now are rallying behind a similar idea just because it's championed by Republican lawmakers.

Paul said: “I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama's trillion-dollar deficits. Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits. I can't in all honesty look the other way.”

Congress ended a five-hour government shutdown early Friday morning after the House supported a massive bipartisan budget deal that adds hundreds of billions of dollars in federal spending. The funds will go to the military, domestic programs and disaster relief.

Trump signed the bill into law Friday morning.

Under Trump, fiscally conservative lawmakers supported increased government spending.

Under Trump, the Republican National Committee backed a candidate in Alabama accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls while in his 30s.

Under Trump, Christian conservatives have defended a thrice-married man against allegations that his lawyer paid a six-figure settlement to a porn actress who reportedly had an affair with the president not long after his wife gave birth to their son.

Under Trump, multiple veterans have backed a candidate with multiple draft deferments who as president has invoked the military while attacking other Americans who took a knee during the national anthem to protest racism and police violence.

Under Trump, Republicans who criticized the influence of high-spending donors in politics have gone silent as the billionaire president's private club hosts political fundraisers with tickets starting at $100,000.

Former White House aide Omarosa Manigault Newman told the New York Times that people like her who boarded the Trump train called themselves Trumpublicans due to his unorthodox and unconventional approach to politics that seemed to have no place in the Democratic Party or the GOP.

But more than a year after Trump’s inauguration, it is clear that his politics have found a home in the GOP. The majority of Republicans continue to give him high approval ratings despite scandals dominating headlines nearly every week. They point to the decisions that reflect a relatively traditional Republican presidency as reasons for their high support.

But a sizable group of Never Trump Republicans remains vocal and critical of his presidency. And it is not clear where these conservatives can go, given that Trumpism is becoming more of the dominant worldview of the GOP.

Paul is likely to continue to draw attention to what he sees as hypocrisies in the Republican Party, but the likelihood of conservative lawmakers pivoting away to the traditional vision of conservatism is low. The truth is conservative voters had a chance to choose between Paul and Trump’s visions for America during the GOP primaries. The GOP chose Trump.