Politics & Government

Father watches with pride as Rand Paul becomes U.S. senator

Sen. Rand Paul, wife Kelley, sons, Will, 18, Duncan, 14, Robert, 11
January 5, 2011 ( Photograph by Mary F. Calvert/MCT )
Sen. Rand Paul, wife Kelley, sons, Will, 18, Duncan, 14, Robert, 11 January 5, 2011 ( Photograph by Mary F. Calvert/MCT )

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Ron Paul figured this day would come — but not quite this soon.

Paul stood in the back of the Senate chamber with the smile of a proud father as he watched Vice President Joe Biden administer the oath of office and make his son, Rand Paul, the new junior senator from Kentucky.

"It's pretty significant," said the elder Paul, R-Texas, who a few hours later was sworn in for a 12th two-year term in the House of Representatives. "I felt pretty good about it. It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience."

And a historic one. The swearing-in of each of the Pauls marked the first time in congressional history a child served in the Senate while the parent simultaneously served in the House, according to the Senate historian's office.

"It was such an exciting experience," Rand Paul said of his swearing-in. "We had a lot of family members, all 30 immediate family members. We went to Tony Cheng's last night; they gave us the whole floor."

During the 2010 congressional primaries, Rand Paul became a key face of the Tea Party movement after he knocked off an establishment Republican candidate, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who was backed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and former Vice President Dick Cheney.

Much of Wednesday was about pomp and circumstance for Rand and Ron Paul. They were sworn in, attended a joint reception at the U.S. Capitol Visitor Center, and the younger Paul participated in a swearing-in re-enactment ceremony in the Capitol's old Senate chamber.

But the newly minted senator from Kentucky also tended to some business, firing a warning shot at his own party in a television interview, saying that Republicans better not renege on their promise to implement $100 billion in spending cuts within a year of taking control of the House.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that House Republican leaders are backing away from that vow, outlined in the GOP's "Pledge to America," and are looking to slash $50 billion to $60 billion in spending instead.

"The debt problem is enormous," Rand Paul said on ABC's Good Morning America. "You know we're bringing in about $2 trillion and spending nearly $4 trillion, so $50 billion is not enough to scratch the surface. ... We have to find much, much more. If you go back just to 2008 levels, that's $100 billion, we have to at least do that."

After speaking to other congressional freshmen, Paul said he found "that there was some steadfastness there to push the leadership towards more" budget cuts. Paul has previously said he would unveil in January a plan to balance the federal budget in one year.

But for the most part, Rand Paul's first day as a senator involved handshakes, congratulations and greetings. A long corridor separates the Senate and House chambers, but Paul and his dad were united at a joint swearing-in reception at the visitor's center.

Two large sheet cakes, one with the Kentucky state seal and the other with Texas' seal, stood on a table that also featured a black-and-white 1976 photo of Ron Paul shortly after he was first sworn into his first House term. Young Rand and his siblings are in the photo.

Ron Paul said that of his five children, Rand showed the most interest in politics. After watching his son help in New Hampshire on his 2008 presidential campaign, Ron Paul said he was convinced Rand would run for office someday, but he never dreamed it would be in 2010.

"Nobody knew what the explosion of the Tea Party movement would be and what it would mean," the elder Paul said. "He saw an opportunity."