WASHINGTON (CNN) — Sen. Rand Paul called on his fellow Republicans to be more welcoming of immigrants Tuesday night in a speech where he also sharply criticized President Barack Obama and his congressional colleagues for failing to reduce the nation’s debt.
“We are the party that embraces hard work and ingenuity, therefore we must be the party that embraces the immigrant who wants to come to America for a better future,” the Kentucky Republican said during the “tea party response” to Obama’s State of the Union address. “We must be the party who sees immigrants as assets, not liabilities. We must be the party that says, ‘If you want to work, if you want to become an American, we welcome you.'”
Paul’s remarks about immigrants came as GOP leaders and activists grapple with what the party’s position should be on how best to address the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in the U.S. A handful of Democratic and Republican senators, including Marco Rubio, are working on immigration reform legislation. Rubio delivered the official Republican response following Obama’s speech.
Paul, who was critical of both Democrats and Republicans in his speech, urged the president and Congress to allow $1.2 trillion in cuts to domestic and military programs – known as the sequester – to happen as a step towards reducing the debt.
“Not only should the sequester stand, many pundits say the sequester really needs to be at least $4 trillion to avoid another downgrade of America’s credit rating,” Paul said. “Both parties will have to agree to cut, or we will never fix our fiscal mess.”
And the Kentucky Republican called out Democrats and Republicans for participating in a culture that he alleges fails to keep the taxpayers’ best interests in mind.
“It is often said that there is not enough bipartisanship up here,” Paul said. “That is not true. In fact, there is plenty. Both parties have been guilty of spending too much, of protecting their sacred cows, of backroom deals in which everyone up here wins, but every taxpayer loses. It is time for a new bipartisan consensus. It is time Democrats admit that not every dollar spent on domestic programs is sacred. And it is time Republicans realize that military spending is not immune to waste and fraud.”
In his speech, Paul also called out the president’s use of drones, and their potential for killing Americans abroad without a trial
“We will stand up against excessive government power wherever we see it,” Paul said in his remarks. “We cannot and will not allow any President to act as if he were a king.”
“We will not tolerate secret lists of American citizens who can be killed without trial,” he continued.
The Tea Party Express, a political action committee that champions conservative principles, sponsored Paul’s speech, which originated from the National Press Club in Washington.
Paul and Rubio are both expected to seriously consider running for the White House in 2016, adding more intrigue to the back-to-back speeches.