GREENSBURG, Ky. — Longhunters Coffee shop in Greensburg is at full capacity, no masks in sight on anyone there to see Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) speak.
The old restrictions are still on the top of his mind, though.
“I think it’s still very present on people’s minds,” Paul said. “I think it’s also the greatest restrictions on our freedoms in a long, long time.”
Paul maintains most of the restrictions did nothing to slow down the virus, despite the recommendations of disease experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci.
“We did a lot of things wrong that hurt the economy that didn’t help the pandemic, so I think it’s important,” Paul said. “I think people do want to hear about it. I think more people ask me about my interactions with Dr. Fauci than anything else in the room.”
With more than a year to go before the next election, when Paul’s seat is up, will COVID-19 restrictions still be on the top of voters’ minds when it matters?
Paul said it depends on where the coronavirus goes from here.
“I think that the numbers show that we’re beyond the worst of this,” Paul said. “If we have another huge surge like we did in January, it’ll be back on everybody’s minds again. I think we’ve reached a level of immunity between natural infection and the vaccine together, that I think we’re actually at a point where we’re not going to get large numbers of the infection again.”
And assuming coronavirus numbers stay down, Paul says he’s going to keep this conversation at the forefront in case we have another pandemic.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers is working on a compromise infrastructure deal. Sen. Paul said he’s undecided on the proposal unveiled by the group last week.
“I’m for the approach. I think a bipartisan approach on roads and bridges, locks and dams is a good idea,” Paul said. “I’m concerned about how it’s going to be paid for.”
Paul said he wants to shift money away from efforts in Afghanistan — which he puts at $50 billion each year — and spending that on infrastructure needs at home.
Spectrum News 1 also asked Paul what his thoughts are about Gov. Andy Beshear’s decision to keep the extra $300/week pandemic unemployment benefit and offer a $1,500 return-to-work bonus.
“If the government pays people more not to work than they can get for working, surprise, people will choose not to work,” Paul said.
Paul also called Beshear’s plan a “contradictory policy,” criticizing him for simultaneously paying people to work and not to work.
“He’s sort of doing both things incorrectly,” Paul said.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has also called for Beshear to end the $300/week pandemic unemployment benefit.
Sen. Paul said his focus is on the election in 2022 and hasn’t thought much about running for president again in 2024.
“It would have to be something extraordinary, a set of events to come together, probably, for me to consider it,” Paul said.
He also said he doesn’t expect to see many announcements from the GOP until former President Donald Trump announces if he’s going to run again.