|Republican Ron Paul is known in Congress as "Dr. No" for his votes on spending.|
WASHINGTON - Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul yesterday defended his efforts in Congress to bring home money to his Texas district, despite his long-held aversion to big government and congressional votes to rein in federal spending.
"I've never voted for an earmark in my life," the Texas representative said under questioning on NBC's "Meet the Press" about reports that he has requested hundreds of millions of dollars for special projects in his home district.
"I put them in because I represent people who are asking for some of their money back," said Paul, who likened it to taking a tax credit. "I'm against the tax system, but I take all my tax credits. I want to get their money back for the people."
The 10-term congressman and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination added that although he has requested special projects known as earmarks, he ultimately ends up voting against them in the House.
Paul is known in Congress as "Dr. No" for his votes against some types of government spending, including medals for Pope John Paul II and civil rights leader Rosa Parks because of the cost to taxpayers.
For his home state, however, Paul has sought money for water projects, a nursing program, to expand a hospital cancer center, and to promote Texas shrimp.
Last week, President Bush complained about thousands of earmarks in a massive spending bill Congress sent to him.
As the only Republican candidate opposed to the Iraq war, Paul was an antiwar asterisk in the race until his campaign began raising money, most of it over the Internet.
He brought in a record $6 million in one day, and $18 million in less than three months, though he still registers in the single digits in most polls.
Paul, a 72-year-old obstetrician-gynecologist who ran for president as a libertarian in 1988, was asked whether he would run as a third-party candidate next year if he loses the GOP nomination. He said that was unlikely.
On another issue, Paul railed against the government's antidrug policy, complaining that federal law overrules state laws that permit medicinal use of marijuana for pain or other symptoms of debilitating illnesses such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, and other diseases.
Paul said he wants to eliminate foreign aid to Israel and other nations. "Why make Israel so dependent?" he asked. "They can't defend their borders without coming to us."