Rand Paul backs down from threat to filibuster budget bill

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. addresses the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011.
AP Photo/Alex Brandon

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) indicated Wednesday that it is unlikely he will filibuster the budget agreement reached by Congress late last week, which prevented the government from shutting down.

In an interview with CBSNews' "Washington Unplugged," Paul said while he got "direct orders" from voters on spending, the message was less clear on filibustering.

"Last Friday night at midnight, could I have refused to have a vote and say we're going to stop the government? I could, but then it would be less about me being for social security reform and balancing the budget," Paul said.

"Instead, it'd be about that petulant guy from Kentucky who shut the government down just because he was mad," Paul told CBS News political analyst John Dickerson just after President Obama's budget speech Wednesday. On Tuesday, Paul said in an interview that he was considering mounting a filibuster against the bill.

The freshman senator and Tea Party favorite acknowledged if there were enough Senate colleagues willing to vote for his budget plan, a filibuster would be worthwhile. By requiring 60 votes for the budget bill's passage, a filibuster would make it difficult for the Senate to meet another midnight deadline this Friday.

"If you're going to lose the battle and all you did was shut the government down for three days, then that, maybe, is empty partisanship," he said.

Earlier Wednesday, Paul, with Sens. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), introduced a proposal to reform social security by reducing benefits for wealthier Americans and increasing the retirement age.

"We could fix it [Social Security] tomorrow, I promise," Paul said, expressing frustration the president wasn't more specific on that issue in his speech. "But the longer you wait, the harder it is."

Social Security isn't the only issue Paul is willing to work with Mr. Obama on. He told CBSNews.com he would be "more than happy to be the lead" in his party for the president on military cuts.

"I'm waiting for his phone call," Paul said. "There are a lot of things the leaders of the Republicans say- we will cut military spending without damaging our national defense- and I will help him with that."

"But he's gotta do more than just give speeches."

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