WASHINGTON -- Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), perhaps the most "at home" of any elected official at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, told The Huffington Post in a brief interview that he remains fundamentally unsatisfied with his party leadership's approach to governance.
Speaking at the entrance of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, where the conference is being held, just before a throng of reporters and supporters descended upon him, Paul said it was "too early to determine how dedicated" Republican leaders are when it comes to spending cuts.
On Thursday, those leaders were forced to host an emergency meeting to find ways to placate their Tea Party faction on a stopgap budget measure to keep the government running. Republican lawmakers emerged from that meeting saying they had identified ways to reduce the proposed 2011 budget by $100 billion.
But Paul, who commands a dedicated and growing following of staunch fiscal conservatives, was nonplussed.
"I'm doubtful that there will be very many real cuts," he said, though he acknowledged that he hadn't yet seen the final proposal. "They are not going to slash the budget. We don't have the votes and people don't have the stomach for it. That's a hard job cutting. Nobody wants their budget cut. Big government is alive and well."
The Texas Republican reiterated that sentiment shortly thereafter in a stem-winder of a speech before an adoring CPAC crowd. Saying that the "revolution is continuing" from the roots planted in the 2010 elections, Paul leveled blunt criticism at government as a whole, though he focused more on foreign policy than domestic affairs.
Paul offered sharp words for a recent effort to extend portions of the Patriot Act, which he told The Huffington Post he expected would pass on Monday via procedural mechanisms. He lamented the size of the military budget, which he told the CPAC crowd should not be confused with the money necessary for national defense. And he reflected on the events unfolding in Egypt -- a first for the featured CPAC speakers -- arguing that the United States needs to cut foreign aid across the board.
"Temporary stability does not guarantee stability," he said of U.S. foreign entanglements generally. "And besides, we just flat-out don't have the money."
The crowd, which had earlier offered decent receptions to several prospective Republican presidential candidates, could barely contain its enthusiasm.