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Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, a potential contender for 2016 Republican presidential nomination, said cooperation with President Barack Obama is possible this year on infrastructure and immigration, if the efforts are limited and don’t aim to be comprehensive.
Obama will sketch out his agenda for 2014 when he delivers his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress Tuesday night.
“The president and I don’t agree on every issue, but if you took ten issues, I think there are two or three that we agree on… and why don’t we go after the issues that we agree on?” Paul said on NBC’s Meet the Press.
He said on immigration reform, “We don’t agree on the whole comprehensive package with the Democrats, but I’ll bet you about half of it we agree on. The question is: are we willing to narrow our focus and go after things that we can agree to and get them done, or are we going to stay so polarized that we always have to have our way or the highway?”
The Kentucky Republican said that when he visited the president at the White House a couple of weeks ago he told Obama, “I want to increase infrastructure spending and I know you do. Let’s let companies bring back their profits from overseas at (a) 5 percent (corporate tax rate) and put it all in infrastructure.”
Paul said he’d talked to Senate Democrats about this idea “and I think we could agree to that tomorrow.”
Paul said it was an error to try to pass overall tax reform or a comprehensive rewrite of the nation’s immigration laws this year.
On CNN’s State of the Union, Obama’s senior advisor Dan Pfeiffer said Obama would use his speech Tuesday night to “lay out a series of concrete, real, practical proposals on how we restore opportunity for all Americans. And he's going to do that by looking for ways to work with Congress where he can, but act on his own where he can't.”
But Paul warned against the dangers of the president using executive orders as a way to circumvent Congress.
“Montesquieu talked about when the executive branch tries to assume the legislative powers, that that's a form of tyranny,” he said. “There are times when we lose our checks and balances, when government grows, and when government is not obeying the rule of law, that that is a form of tyranny.”
Looking ahead to the 2016 presidential campaign and a possible race against Hillary Clinton, Paul called former President Bill Clinton “predatory” for his 1996-1997 liaison with former White House intern Monica Lewinsky.
Paul also said that the Democrats’ argument Republicans are waging a “War on Women” by opposing coverage for birth control in Obamacare and by opposing abortion is undercut by the memory of Bill Clinton as a sexual predator.
“One of the workplace laws and rules that I think are good is that bosses should not prey on young interns in their office. And I think really the media seems to have given President Clinton a pass on this. He took advantage of a girl that was 20 years old and an intern in his office. There is no excuse for that, and that is predatory behavior….. Then they (Democrats) have the gall to stand up and say, ‘Republicans are having a war on women.’ ”
He added, “It’s not Hillary’s fault, but it is a factor in judging Bill Clinton in history.”
He added with Bill and Hillary Clinton, “Sometimes it’s hard to separate one from the other.”
Paul’s comments were quickly rebutted by Senate Majority Whip Sen Dick Durbin of Illinois who told NBC’s David Gregory that that questions about Bill Clinton’s sexual behavior “were litigated in the public square for over a decade” and the American people decided years ago that the Lewinsky episode was over and that they wanted to shift their focus to other matters.
“Let’s judge Hillary Clinton based on her talents and her vision of America should she choose to run for president,” Durbin said.