The war of words between Sen. Rand Paul and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie escalated Sunday, with Mr. Paul slamming Mr. Christie and Rep. Peter King, New York Republican, for spending priorities that he says endanger national security.
“They’re precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending, and their ‘Gimme, gimme, gimme — give me all my Sandy money now.’ ” Mr. Paul said, referring to federal funding after the hurricane last year, The Associated Press reported. “Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense.”
Mr. King told the AP late Sunday that such criticism was “indefensible.”
“This was absolutely life-or-death money that was essential to New York and New Jersey,” he said.
The recent spat exemplifies a growing divide in the Republican party ahead of the 2016 presidential election between a more libertarian bent favored by Mr. Paul and a more hawkish view espoused recently by Mr. Christie. Both men are considered to be at or near the top of a potentially crowded field vying for the GOP presidential nomination.
In comments at a forum of Republican governors in Aspen, Colo., last week, Mr. Christie said the libertarian strain championed by Mr. Paul currently coursing through the veins of political parties — as evidenced by broad, although ultimately unsuccessful, lobbying in the House of Representatives against NSA surveillance programs this week — is dangerous.
“This strain of libertarianism that’s going through parties right now and making big headlines I think is a very dangerous thought,” Mr. Christie said. “You can name any number of people, and [Mr. Paul is] one of them.”
Mr. Christie criticized what he called “esoteric, intellectual debates” that Mr. Paul and fellow conservatives such as Sen. Mike Lee of Utah have been conducting over the constitutional limits on unreasonable search-and-seizure and warrant-less government surveillance.
In terms of the back-and-forth, Mr. Paul said he wasn’t the one spoiling for a fight but he’d be more than willing to oblige, AP said.
“I didn’t start this one, and I don’t plan on starting things by criticizing other Republicans,” he said. “But if they want to make me the target, they will get it back in spades.”