Rand Paul, focused like a laser

RAND PAUL, FOCUSED LIKE A LASER…. As part of the debate over the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) introduced a rather uncontroversial amendment. Citing reports of pilot complaints and security risks, Whitehouse’s measure would make it a federal crime to aim a laser pointer at an aircraft.

Not surprisingly, this didn’t generate much in the way of opposition. It did not, however, pass unanimously.

In his first few weeks in office, newly elected Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) could quickly be stealing his colleagues’ reputation as “Dr. No.”

Paul, an ophthalmologist, was the sole vote Thursday against an amendment supported by 96 of his colleagues that would install penalties for aiming laser pointers at airplanes.

Yes, it was 96 to 1, and the one was the strange, self-accredited ophthalmologist who somehow got elected to the U.S. Senate.

By way of an explanation, Paul’s office said safety precautions regarding lasers and airplanes could be more “adequately handled and prosecuted at the state level.”

I’ll look forward to his speech asking, “Where in the Constitution does it say Congress can regulate what people can aim at airplanes?”

Let’s also note that Paul had an amendment of his own to the FAA bill: a measure to undermine labor protections for agency employees. It failed.

He’s off to a great start, isn’t he? The we-aim-lasers-at-planes crowd will no doubt be singing Paul’s praises.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.