Rand Paul: No problem with Amazon delivery drones

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., delivers a speech titled, "Renewing the Opportunity for Prosperity: Economic Freedom Zones" at the Detroit Economic Club December 6, 2013, in Detroit, Michigan.
Bill Pugliano, Getty Images

You might expect Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to be among the loudest critics of an idea floated by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos to deliver packages using unmanned aerial drones.

After all, this is the same senator who vaulted to prominence in March with a 13-hour filibuster of CIA Director John Brennan’s nomination in protest of the U.S. government’s policies on drones.

But when Fox News’ Chris Wallace asked him Sunday whether he would move to ground Bezos’ high-flying ambition on the launch pad, Paul said his objection is focused on privacy, not technology.

“I'm not against technology. So, I'm not one of these people who says, 'Oh, unmanned airplanes is really a bad thing,’” he said. “My problem is more with surveillance for privacy reasons, not with delivering of packages. So I'm worried about the government looking into our backyard. I'm also worried about private companies looking and counting and looking in our windows.”

Paul suggested that laws regarding “peeping toms” will “have to be applied to higher technology.”

“There has to be a certain extension of your privacy,” he said. “Not only your house, but your yard and the things that you do that really people shouldn't be able to observe all of the time. And so, there will have to be rules on private entities, but really most particularly I'm concerned about the government looking at our activities.”

Paul’s filibuster over drones and his broader critique of government surveillance practices have made him an early 2016 presidential favorite among some libertarian-minded elements of the Republican base. The Kentucky Republican acknowledged Sunday that he is “seriously thinking about” running for president, but he added that familial considerations may ultimately dissuade him from launching a bid.

“Just look at what happens daily to any politician in America. You talk about how uncivil things are. I mean, they really are. They do take a toll on family,” he said. “They're a major component of the discussion…but a lot of things enter into it, you know. So, we'll see what happens over the next year.”

Paul also weighed in on the budget talks currently moving through Congress, signaling his opposition to an extension of unemployment insurance for the long-term unemployed beyond their December 28 expiration date.

“I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they're paid for. If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers,” he said. “There was a study that came out a few months ago, and it said, if you have a worker that's been unemployed for four weeks and on unemployment insurance and one that's on 99 weeks, which would you hire? Every employer, nearly 100 percent, said they will always hire the person who's been out of work four weeks.”

“When you allow people to be on unemployment insurance for 99 weeks, you're causing them to become part of this perpetual unemployed group in our economy,” he said. “While it seems good, it actually does a disservice to the people you're trying to help.”

Bicameral budget talks are moving toward a December 13 deadline, and Democrats have been lobbying to include an extension of unemployment insurance in any agreement that emerges. But Republicans, led by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, R-Wisc., have dug in their heels in opposition.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Sunday on ABC’s “This Week” that Democrats would still prefer to include an extension of unemployment benefits in a budget package, but he said it isn’t the sort of “take it or leave it” demand that could force Democrats to abandon negotiations entirely if refused.