Paul 'cannot accept' sequester increase

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Sunday that he is not willing to support any deal to raise the federal debt ceiling that includes increases in government spending that rise above the levels that have been in place since the implementation of the sequester budget cuts.

Democrats in the Senate pushed over the weekend to include an increase to sequester funding levels in a possible deal to avert a default on the federal debt.

Paul, who is considered a likely 2016 presidential candidate, said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” that was where he was drawing the line in the sand.

“Compromise is in the eye of the beholder,” Paul said. “I’m willing to compromise. We’ve offered 13 compromises [and] the Senate has rejected each and every one. The one thing I cannot accept is the Democrats wanting to exceed the sequester caps. It’s funny, they’re all about Obamacare is the law of the land, well so is the sequester. If we exceed that, it’s a real step in the wrong direction.”

Paul said he thought it was “not a good idea to go through the debt-ceiling deadline,” but he chided President Obama for raising fears about the potential repercussions of a first-ever U.S. default.

“I think we should go ahead and have an agreement in advance. However, that being said, I think it’s irresponsible for the president, who when he was a senator actually voted not to raise the debt ceiling…to scare people,” Paul said. “He should be the opposite. The leader of the country should be soothing the markets and saying ‘we will always pay the interest on our debt.’”

The Treasury Department has said that it will exhaust its ability to pay the country’s bills on Thursday, giving lawmakers a firm deadline for reaching a deal.

Paul argued on Sunday that Obama administration was resisting restraining federal spending.

“People have to realize that not raising the debt ceiling means you have to balance your budget, it doesn’t mean you default,” he said. “People are conflating the two and they’re not the same thing.”

The Kentucky senator also threw cold water on Democrats’ argument that the last time Congress flirted with not hiking the debt ceiling led to a decrease in the credit-worthiness of the U.S.

“In 2011…we were downgraded because of the burden of how big our debt was, not because of getting close to a deadline,” Paul said. “The S&P said we did not do enough to cut spending, and not enough to act fiscally responsible, that’s why we were downgraded.”

Paul also expressed doubt about recent polls show the debt limit fight and the shutdown of the federal government were hurting Republican politicians.

“I think our demise is a little bit overstated,” he said. “I would say that both parties are going to catch a lot of blame on this. This is not good for either party.”

Paul predicted Democrats would be hurt in polling, too, because of the Obama administration’s decision to close national parks and monuments during the shutdown of the federal government.

“Here’s what the Democrats think: They think we’ll send a bunch of government workers out there to close off the road side viewing of Mount Rushmore, because they think this is funny,” he said. “I don’t think it is fun. This is a lose-lose.”