One thing was very clear: Rand Paul wants to drastically cut how much money the United States spends. Which specific programs will get the axe? That was a bit fuzzier.
"Give me one specific cut, Senator-elect," This Week anchor Christiane Amanpour asked Paul in an exclusive interview Sunday morning.
"All across the board," Paul said.
"But you can't just keep saying all across the board," Amanpour pressed.
"No, I can," Paul replied. "I'm going to look at every program, every program." He said he would freeze federal hiring and, perhaps, reduce the number of federal employees by 10% along with the remaining government employees' wages by 10%.
Paul, a tea party favorite, explained he hoped to be on the Senate Budget Committee, look at all the numbers and introduce a balanced budget plan in January. "I want the Republican message to be one of balanced budgets."
"You have to look at entitlements," Paul said.
"Social Security?" Amanpour asked.
"What I would say is not the people who are currently on it and not those approaching retirement, but the sooner we fix it, the better. So it may be 55 and under, but that should be this year, we should be looking at 55 and under, what do we do to change the system to make it more sustainable."
"Raise the retirement age?" Amanpour asked.
"You may have to," Paul said.
Paul, the son of libertarian-leaning Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, said that one place he would not be willing to cut is the salaries of military service members. But he said reducing the foreign military footprint of the United States would be a route to lowering expenditures. "Now can we say we gradually don't need as large of an Army if we're not in two wars? Yes, I think you can say that. You can save money there. You can bring some troops home," he said.
The Spending Problem
"I think it's not a revenue problem, it's a spending problem," Paul told Amanpour. "A lot of times people would come up to me and say, 'oh you don't believe in any government.' And I would tell them, 'you know what, I believe in $2.4 trillion worth; I just don't think you can have $4 trillion worth, if you only bring in $2.4 trillion."
"We don't need bigger government," he said. "We need to shrink the size of government."
"You need to ask of every program – and we take no program off the table," Paul explained. "Can it be downsized? Can it be privatized? Can it be made smaller? ... We need to get our fiscal house in order."
On Tuesday, Paul won a nasty battle against Democrat Jack Conway to replace retiring Republican Sen. Jim Bunning. In the Republican primary, Paul beat Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson, who was backed by the Republican establishment. Amanpour asked him if he would be co-opted by the Washington establishment.
"I think the tea party is actually co-opting Washington," he replied. "We're coming, we're proud, we're strong, we're loud and ... I think we're already shaping the debate."