Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday that the term "amnesty" –- a charge often levied in clashes between the Tea Party and pragmatic wings of the GOP -- has "trapped" the Republican Party.
"I think we’ve been somewhat trapped by rhetoric and words, and amnesty is a word that's kind of trapped us," Paul told reporters on a conference call organized by the Partnership for a New American Economy, a pro-immigration reform group.
"We're trapped in a word that means different things to different people, and the people who are opposed to all reform think amnesty means everything, and then other people think amnesty means another thing," Paul added. "And I really think that some of it is we're trapped in is rhetoric and that we have to get beyond that."
Paul, who supports some aspects of an immigration overhaul but voted against the bipartisan Senate reform bill passed last year, said he stands by his position on the issue. And he disputed the notion that the surprising defeat of top Republican Eric Cantor in Tuesday night’s primary is a clear-cut sign that immigration reform is too politically fraught for Republicans this year.
Cantor lost to little-known Tea Party candidate Dave Brat, who used the majority leader’s support for a moderate immigration proposal as a wedge issue in the campaign.
But Paul pointed to last night’s other big primary contest in South Carolina, where Sen. Lindsey Graham – an original backer of the Senate’s comprehensive immigration bill – easily defeated six primary challengers.
"Maybe the issue [immigration] isn't a paramount issue and so maybe it's hard to draw complete conclusions just on the one issue,” he said.
NBC's Carrie Dann contributed.
First published June 11 2014, 10:35 AM
Kasie Hunt has covered politics for NBC News since January 2013. Hunt came to NBC News from The Associated Press, where she served as a national political reporter. As one of the organizationâ€™s lead campaign trail reporters, Hunt covered the Republican primary field and nominee Mitt Romney, eventually following the Romney campaign nearly full time from December 2011 through election day.
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Prior to joining the AP, Hunt covered the 2010 mid-term elections and the emerging GOP presidential primary race as a national political reporter for POLITICO. Earlier, she covered health care, education, and labor policy for National Journalâ€™s CongressDaily, where she closely followed the Affordable Care Act from inception to passage. She began her journalism career as an intern with the NBC News political unit.
Hunt has appeared regularly on numerous television programs, including MSNBCâ€™s â€œThe Daily Rundown with Chuck Todd,â€ â€œNOW with Alex Wagner,â€ and â€œHardball with Chris Matthews,â€ as well as NBCâ€™s â€œThe Chris Matthews Show.â€
Hunt is a graduate of George Washington University and holds a masterâ€™s degree in sociology from the University of Cambridge, where she was a member of St Johnâ€™s College.