MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
I'm Michel Martin and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Later in the program we will tell you more about a name you probably know. J.W. Marriott, Jr., better known as Bill, helped turn his parents' local restaurant chain into a global hospitality brand. He has some wisdom about how he got there that he wants to share with us. That's in just a few minutes.
But first we're going to continue our newsmaker conversation with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for a few more minutes. He is the junior Republican senator from Kentucky. He spoke at the historically black Howard University yesterday as part of a Republican effort to broaden the party's appeal.
Sen. Paul, thank you so much for staying with us.
SEN. RAND PAUL: Sure.
MARTIN: I wanted to ask you about another issue that came up during the forum and that is an amendment that you offer to a bill that would grant budget autonomy to the District of Columbia. Now, for people who aren't following this, it's a little bit complicated. The District has a difficult relationship with the federal government. It's kind of complex about how budgeting and so forth - you know, the federal government controls some aspects of District functioning. The local government controls others.
The budget amendments that you offered would require the District to allow residents to obtain concealed weapon permits for handguns. It would require the city to honor permits issued to residents of other states, and it would also require or would bar D.C.'s local tax dollars from being used to fund abortions for poor women. I mean just accepting the fact that these are strongly held positions by you, how do you square that with your desire to have the government leave you alone?
PAUL: Well, you know, the Constitution carved out a really special status for D.C. It's the only place in the country that was created and put under the purview of Congress. If you want to change that, you end up having to change the Constitution.
I think, as far as having budget autonomy, if D.C. wants to collect local taxes and not take any money from the federal taxpayer, then you know, I think there is room for discussion on whether or not D.C. could have more autonomy on money that they collect locally. But that, I think, would require them to sort of decide they no longer are going to accept money from the rest of the states to come into D.C. And I'm willing to discuss that if that's the arrangement.
Some of it, though, would have to require a change to the Constitution. What we can't do is give money to D.C. from the Treasury and not have oversight. We can't say, oh, well, D.C. is allowed to make their own decisions with someone else's money.
MARTIN: Well, that's a complicated issue because there are huge swaths of District territory that are used by the federal government. Local resources go to offer policing on big public events and things of that sort. I mean the reason I'm raising it in this context is that this is one of those issues where on its face somebody might not see that as a racial issue, but given that this city is majority African-American, it's a sore point. Many people feel that this is an insult to the local leadership, the locally elected leadership of this city. And I'm wondering if anybody raised that point with you and if you see their point.
PAUL: You know, we did have the discussion. I think it was a good discussion and the point I tried to make was, one, is there Constitutional restraints. But two, that I'm also open to having more autonomy on budgetary authority, particularly if they want authority and they don't want money from the rest of the states. If they want money that is just locally raised sales tax, I think we might have room for discussion. But we cannot have money coming from the U.S. Treasury that is under the guidance of the Constitution without oversight. That would be inappropriate and unconstitutional.
MARTIN: To that end, though, I want to end our conversation where it began. It seems to me - I'm sure it works this way in your life as well, that kind of real relationship comes with dialog. People talk as much as they listen. I'm interested in what your plans are for further dialog with people who don't already agree with you, particularly on matters of race and ethnicity.
PAUL: Well, you know, I have dialog every day with people who don't agree with me, including my wife, my staff, and half the people I run into at the Republican caucus, as well as the Democrat caucus. So I do try to listen. I am a physician by trade. I try to be a problem-solver. I try to hear both sides and say, what is the solution? I also believe in showing up and I will continue to show up and speak to historically black colleges, as well as other venues that I'm invited to, and with the understanding that I think dialog does improve things.
I've been a big proponent of Republicans and Democrats eating together in Washington. This is something I've promoted for two years, to try to have more joint lunches, where there is a social discussion which I think would be helpful for the country. So I am a believer in both sides working together. I've worked together and am working together with Democrat senators on ending mandatory minimums, on bringing the troops home from Afghanistan, on auditing the Pentagon. So there are a lot of areas in which I am able to work with the other side and I think it's been constructive.
MARTIN: Are there any people of color on your staff, particularly African-Americans, particularly in positions of leadership?
PAUL: We have and we don't currently have because they left for promotions elsewhere, but we have and probably will in the future.
MARTIN: Rand Paul is the junior United States senator from Kentucky. Yesterday, Wednesday, he spoke with an audience on the campus of historically black Howard University, which is in Washington, D.C., and that's why we're talking to him today.
We hope we'll speak again, Senator. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
PAUL: Great. Thanks for having me.
MARTIN: Sen. Paul spoke to us from the Senate. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.