Sen. Rand Paul attempted to rebut recent criticism of his stance on national security issues on Sunday, telling attendees of a Republican fundraiser in Tennessee that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and GOP Rep. Peter King of New York were depleting the government's coffers by asking for federal disaster relief.
"The people who want to criticize me and call me names, they are precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending," Paul said at a "Boots and Jeans, BBQ and Beans" event in Franklin, according to CNN affiliate WKRN-TV.
"They are 'Gimme, gimme, gimme all my Sandy money now.' Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not allowing enough money be left over for national defense," Paul continued.
Paul, a Kentucky Republican, was speaking the same day King told CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley that a recent libertarian streak in the GOP threatened to weaken what he said was the party's traditional strength.
King - who, along with Christie, represents an area devastated by last year's Superstorm Sandy -- sharply chastised Paul for suggesting admitted NSA leaker Edward Snowden was performing an act of civil disobedience when he revealed the massive snooping programs.
"This is the anti-war, left-wing Democrats of the 1960s that nominated George McGovern and destroyed their party for almost 20 years. I don't want that happening to our party," King said on CNN's "State of the Union."
King argued that while a debate over the NSA programs could be useful, attempts to defund them were dangerous. The House of Representatives narrowly rejected a measure last week that would have stripped funding from a phone monitoring program.
"I thought it was absolutely disgraceful that so many Republicans voted to defund the NSA program, which has done so much to protect our country," King said. "This is an isolationist streak that's in our party. It goes totally against the party of Eisenhower, and Reagan, Bush. I mean, we are a party of national defense. We're a party who did so much to protect the country over the last 12 years."
Last week, Christie slammed libertarian-minded Republicans who have questioned the NSA spying programs, including Paul. Speaking on a panel for Republican governors, Christie urged caution when discussing ways to revamp U.S. security.
And he argued that those opposed to the government spying programs should talk first to families of loved ones who died in the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"These esoteric, intellectual debates -- I want them to come to New Jersey and sit across from the widows and orphans and have that conversation," Christie said. "And they won't. That's a lot tougher conversation to have."
Paul, Christie and King have all suggested they're considering runs for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.