Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) said conservatives have been “trapped” by referring to legalizing undocumented immigrants as amnesty – the word David Brat used to propel his primary victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R., Va.).
“We’ve been somewhat trapped by rhetoric and words and amnesty is a word that’s trapped us,” Mr. Paul said Wednesday during a call organized by immigration reform supporters. “We’re trapped in a word that means different things to different people. … I really think that some of it is we’re trapped in this rhetoric and we have to get beyond that.”
Mr. Paul appeared on the call with antitax crusader Grover Norquist. It was hosted by Partnership for a New American Economy, the pro-immigration reform group launched and funded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The Kentucky senator and tea party hero, who voted against the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill last year but says he is “for immigration reform,” cautioned against drawing broad conclusions from Mr. Cantor’s defeat about the future status of immigration reform efforts.
Mr. Paul cited the bank bailouts, National Security Agency spying programs and “corporate welfare” as other reasons for Mr. Cantor’s defeat. He also said it was a mistake for Mr. Cantor to air negative TV ads blasting Mr. Brat when no one in the district knew who he was.
“It’s complicated with local races, and some people, myself included, think you can go too far negative and may have increased the name ID of a lesser-known candidate, who had a lot of popular things to say about other issues,” Mr. Paul said.
He added: “There are a lot of issues and reasons why people turned out.… I think it’s a mistake to paint it and say that one issue decided this.”
Mr. Paul said he opposed the Senate’s reform package last year, in part, because he wasn’t included in negotiations that produced the legislation. He said he would support a reform deal that gave Congress more authority on issues such as determining when the border is secure.