Republican U.S. Sen. Rand Paul was bombarded with questions about his possible bid for the presidency Monday as he brought his message of limited government and his new Tea Party book to Lexington.
Paul, a Bowling Green eye surgeon who won his maiden political race last year with strong support from the Tea Party movement, told a crowd of nearly 400 at a Commerce Lexington luncheon that the nation's main problem is its debt and that government is filled with "busybodies" run amok with regulations.
On Sue Wylie's show WVLK-AM 590 earlier in the day and after his 18-minute Commerce Lexington speech, Paul was peppered with questions about his possible run for president next year.
On the radio show, Paul joked that he was rooming in Washington with his father, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who is considering the race, and that he didn't want to upset his landlord.
The senator told reporters at the Lexington Center that his father, who ran unsuccessfully for president in 2008, is making trips to Iowa and New Hampshire, key presidential primary states, and has filled out the paperwork for a presidential exploratory committee.
"We'll see," Paul said. "I think we'll know something in the next month or so what his decision is. I think he may be headed in that direction. I don't know."
Asked whether he will run for president if his father doesn't, Paul said, "Let's just wait and see what his decision is."
During his speech, Paul sounded like a candidate focused on reducing the size of government.
Paul took aim at the nation's debt of $14.2 trillion, saying the United States will spend more money this year than it did last. He said he did not know whether he will try to filibuster an attempt to raise the nation's debt ceiling.
Asked about a possible filibuster Sunday on CNN, Paul said the only way he would definitely vote to raise the debt ceiling is if Congress approves a balanced-budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"I can tell you that the people of Kentucky elected me to shake things up. They didn't elect me to raise the debt ceiling," Paul said on CNN.
On Monday, he said recent cuts by Congress to prevent a government shutdown did not amount to $38 billion, as had been promised. He cited a Congressional Budget Office report that says the cuts will reduce federal spending by just $352 million.
Real cuts in government are necessary, the senator said. "The problem is, every constituency comes to me in Washington and says they need more money."
Even Lexington Mayor Jim Gray has had to make cuts, Paul said. "I told him at lunch he doesn't have a printing press (to print money)."
Paul said it will "not be fun" to take such steps as raising the age to receive Social Security, but such a move is needed for two reasons.
"We're living longer, and people had a whole lot of babies after World War II and they are getting ready to retire," Paul said. "I'm not responsible for either one of those things."
He also railed against excessive government regulations, saying they cost the economy $1.5 trillion.
For example, Paul said, the Environmental Protection Agency applies the same rules on oil spills in large bodies of waters to dairies because milk has a type of oil in it.
There also is the "Fugitive Dust Rule," Paul said, which initially regulated dust created by crushing coal but now applies to farms. He noted that a 144-page federal safety manual about climbing ladders includes the rule, "Make sure you face the ladder."
Paul said he plans to introduce legislation called "Regulatory Freedom Act" to curb government regulations.
During a question-and-answer session after his speech, Paul was asked how he reconciles making cuts that hurt people with being compassionate.
Paul said he thinks that everyone should be "his brother's keeper" and that capitalism is a humane system.
But government is too inefficient, Paul said.
"If you had $100, who would you rather give it to, the Salvation Army or the government?" he asked. "I think the Salvation Army would make better use of your $100 than the federal government."
Paul signed copies of his new book, The Tea Party Goes to Washington, throughout the day and was scheduled for a signing Monday evening at Lexington's Joseph-Beth Booksellers.