On Sunday’s Fox News Sunday, Sen. Rand Paul explained that he doesn't actually want to shut down the government, he just wants the Democrats to think he does.
“I don't think shutting down the government is a good idea. But I do think we were elected—conservatives were elected—to try to stop this overreach, this government takeover of health care,” the Kentucky Republican, Tea Party darling, and potential 2016 candidate said. “So, what I would say is people want us to stand up and fight. I'm willing to stand up and fight.”
Paul and a group of Tea Party senators are pushing Republicans to vote exclusively for budgets that defund Obamacare, saying that forcing Obama to veto the bill would put the blame on the president, not the Republicans. The shutdown movement doesn't have the votes it would need, but Paul and others are continuing to push it.
On Sunday, he explained the move is really about leveraging the Republican-controlled House over the rest of the government.
“We should use the leverage of controlling one third of the government,” Paul said. “I think there is always a great desire not to shut the government down and to use that desire to try to get a compromise.”
What would a Paul-approved “compromise” look like?
“I think you ultimately—you could in conference committee either make the law less bad or delay the individual mandate or delay the whole thing,” he said. "Even the president is very concerned about this law because he is delaying the employer mandate, because he is concerned maybe about what will happen in the elections, when it is seen that insurance premiums go up."
Last week, Paul confirmed that he's considering a 2016 run for the Oval Office.
“I have been thinking about it,” Paul said on Fox, adding that he won't make a decision for "probably a year," but that he's "talking to my wife and kids about it."
Earlier this month, MSNBC host Chris Matthews predicted that Paul will win the Republican nomination, too.
In his Sunday address, the president threw barbs at the shutdown group, saying they are "working hard to confuse people, and making empty promises that they'll either shut down the health care law, or, if they don't get their way, they'll shut down the government."
He continued: "Think about that. They're actually having a debate between hurting Americans who will no longer be denied affordable care just because they've been sick – and harming the economy and millions of Americans in the process."
On the right, more moderate Republicans have also criticized the effort. A longtime critic of Obamacare, Oklahoma's Sen. Tom Coburn has repeatedly said the Tea Party-lead budget initiative to defund Obamacare wouldn't actually defund the healthcare law.
He told the Washington Examiner he’d “be leading the charge if I thought this would work. But it will not work.”