Republican U.S. Senator Rand Paul said Tuesday that if he is elected to the White House, he would only use his executive authority to revoke previous presidential orders.
Kentucky’s junior senator, who is gearing up for a 2016 presidential run, made the comments at a luncheon for the Louisville chamber of commerce, where he addressed a range of topics, from local issues to world affairs.
Asked directly if he would issue executive orders as president, Paul said the only circumstance would be to overturn the ones made by his predecessors.
“Only to undo executive orders. There’s thousands of them that can be undone,” said Paul. “And I would use executive orders to undo executive orders that have encroached on our jurisprudence, our ability to defend ourselves, the right to a trial, all of those I would undo through executive order.”
The use of this presidential power is under wide debate in Washington as the White House considers making such a move on immigration.
Democratic groups are urging President Obama to issue an executive order to shield millions of undocumented immigrants, especially minors, from deportation. Other moves on immigration reform are being considered by the administration.
Democrats who back this idea cite dysfunction in Congress, but Republican lawmakers have said such a decision would be an overreach of the president’s authority.
Paul told Louisville business leaders Tuesday that if faced with similar congressional gridlock, he would favor working with lawmakers to craft more precise legislation.
“You got to try harder because it’s not easy to get people to agree, but democracy’s messy,” he said. “You can’t just say because it’s messy, I’m going to do whatever I want. And that’s my real objection to his president.”
Minutes later, while speaking to a small group of reporters, the senator appeared to soften his pledge against executive orders.
To the reporters, Paul said: “It wasn’t sort of a response of exactness. My inclination would be that there have too many executive orders and that really you shouldn’t legislate through executive orders.”
“I never want to make a blanket statement without looking at everything. My general inclination is you should have less executive orders, but that the executive orders could be used to undo a lot of executive orders that have overstepped their bounds.”
During that visit, an Iowa pastor claimed Paul promised “to issue an executive order rescinding IRS regulations” during a private meeting.
On Tuesday evening, Paul spokesman Dan Bayens did not address questions about Paul’s alleged Iowa comments.
Bayens said in a released statement: “Sen. Paul has said that President Obama and predecessors have overreached with executive orders and that the executive branch should dutifully enforce the law and leave lawmaking to Congress.”