(WHAS11) - Saying he is “excited” about his Tea Party fueled victory in Kentucky, U.S. Senator-elect Rand Paul stressed his independence on Wednesday, rather than an allegiance to an energized Republican Party.
“My message is really not about political parties,” Paul said in an interview with WHAS11, “It's not about Republican or Democrat. My message is - we cannot as a country spend more than we take in without repercussions.”
As Paul made his way into a room set aside for satellite interviews for network television newscasts, he carried a copy of the USA Today newspaper, its headline, “Voters send angry message.”
“I like to call it discontent,” Paul countered, “I think voters are unhappy with the way Washington's been going on.”
“They're unhappy with 2 trillion dollar annual deficits. They don't understand why we have to balance our own family budget and yet Congress can't do the same.”
It was a decisive message by Bluegrass voters. Statewide, Paul trounced Democrat Jack Conway by more than 150,000 votes out of 1.3 million cast.
Yet, several Democratic strongholds do not share the border to border Republican rebuke of President Barack Obama. Nowhere is the contrast clearer than in Jefferson County, where Democratic Congressman John Yarmuth could not conceal his anger while celebrating his own reelection. Yarmuth described unbridled criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and President Barack Obama as "not only unjustified but un-American."
One of 23 Senate Republicans elected on Tuesday, Paul says he'll work with Democrats who understand that the private sector and not government creates jobs. And, he'll vote against his own party if it doesn't stay in line.
Republican Leader Mitch McConnell was in line with Paul's priority at a Capitol Hill news conference.
“It's clear that we're going to have to have some bipartisan agreement and hopefully that will be on the issues of spending and debt,” McConnell said.
And regarding what McConnell calls a metaphor for government excess -- health care reform -- the president said Wednesday that he's open to Republican ideas to tweak it. But - Paul is not a tweaker. He says he'll start with attacking provisions that he thinks would worsen the Recession, and eventually wants ‘Obamacare’ repealed.
In a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon, McConnell said it was “guaranteed” that a repeal vote would come to the Senate floor.
Paul conceded, however, that those opposed to the health care overhaul, which he calls “a disaster waiting to happen,” would probably not have the votes to overcome a presidential veto.
“We'll see, “Paul said, “Probably, you may be right, but that doesn't mean you don't stand up for what you believe in, introduce it and have a vote. Sometimes the votes are about what they call, it's called a division of the house. You want to divide the house and say, ‘Where do you stand?’ And then it becomes about the next election, 2012. If people still agree President Obama is doing a good job, then maybe - yes - maybe we decide he's going to be a one term president.”
Paul believes the election's message is clear. But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, in his victory speech, begged to differ -- saying “the bell that just rang isn’t the end of the fight. It’s the start of the next round.”
“I think in Kentucky the voters would disagree with him,” Paul responded, “I think in Kentucky we're unhappy with the way President Obama has taken the country and we're ready for a change from the change.”
Paul says America is ready for a spot of 'tea,' and he plans to form a first of its kind joint caucus of Tea Partiers in both the Senate and the House -- a new breed of lawmakers like Florida's Marco Rubio who will insist on a balanced budget by law and will work to repeal 'Obamacare.'
He's part of a Republican resurgence - but Paul says party does not matter. Instead, he calls for “serious discussions for serious problems” - like getting people back to work.
“I think the answer is in the marketplace,” Paul said, “I have a great belief in Kentuckians. I don't have a lot of belief that somehow someone smarter than us in Washington to find the answers. So, I think that's the message I'll continue to promote. And there may be people who agree with it who are Democrats. And I will work with them. It's not about political parties. It's about figuring out solutions.”
But what of voters who told WHAS11 that they are “scared” of Paul as a Senator?
“They were in the minority, yesterday,” Paul said, “You realize the majority of voters were voting for what I had to say yesterday.”
Yet, as a Senator for all Kentuckians, Paul was asked if he had a message for people who are scared of him.
“Well, I think the most important thing is to know that I don't see things at all in terms of partisan politics,” Paul said, “I don't see things as Republican or Democrat at all. I'm very independent. If my party is right I vote with them. If they're wrong I'll vote against them.”
“I'll vote for the best interests of Kentucky, the things I stand for I think are very, very mainstream.”
And as Dr. Paul goes to Washington, the Bowling Green ophthalmologist is also staying put in Kentucky.
“I'm going to continue working and seeing patients,” Paul said, “and I have to discover exactly what the rules of the Senate are, what they will allow me to do.”
Paul says he is not taking sides in Kentucky’s 2011 Republican primary for governor, saying Republican voters will sort out the contest between Senate President David Williams and Tea Partier Phil Moffet.
He says Jack Conway was "very gracious" in his concession phone call wishing Paul luck and Paul wished him the same.