If Mitch McConnell is the man trying to put together the Obamacare repeal and replacement puzzle, Rand Paul is one of the pieces that just won’t fit.
Both of Kentucky’s U.S. senators were in the state Thursday talking about the Senate’s replacement bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, but it seems as if McConnell, the Senate majority leader, has decided to focus his attention on someone other than Paul as he tries to muster 50 votes for the bill.
When asked if he has had any conversations with McConnell about the bill since lawmakers left Washington for a holiday break, Paul was curt.
“No,” he answered during a news conference at The River House Restaurant.
Paul did, however, offer one idea that would help him vote for the bill — health care associations.
Health care associations allow groups to band together and offer insurance to their members. Such groups are already allowed in Kentucky, but are limited to about 30 employer-based groups, such as the Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association.
Paul wants to see this method of insurance expanded on a national level and wants fewer limitations placed on group insurance providers, allowing anyone to join a group that doesn’t have to be based on their employer.
The Senate bill does allow health care associations and “they make it a little easier to associate nationally, but they still are bound by all of the Obamacare regulations,” Paul said.
While many Republican senators have attracted liberal protesters at events they’re holding during the Senate’s Independence Day recess, Paul finds himself in the position of being on the same side as the protesters, but for completely opposite reasons.
As one of the Republican holdouts on the bill, Paul has spoken to President Donald Trump about his desire to expand health care associations. Paul said Trump was receptive, but the Senate’s leadership isn’t.
“We’ve reached out to Senate Republican leadership, we’ve described some of the things with association plans that could be done better, and we have not gotten any feedback,” Paul said.
Meanwhile, in Glasgow, McConnell gave one of his most explicit acknowledgments that the Senate bill might fall short.
As he tries to reach 50 votes, Kentucky’s senior senator is walking a fine line between conservatives, such as Paul, and more moderate members of his caucus who oppose the bill’s deep cuts to future Medicaid spending.
Paul has been vocal about his opposition to the bill, occasionally calling it “Obamacare Lite” because it doesn’t go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act.
He has suggested that McConnell attack the issue with two bills: one to repeal Obamacare and another to replace it, an idea that has floated around Washington D.C. for months.
“I think you could do both bills at the same time; in fact, you could vote on them on the same day,” Paul said.
While Paul made it clear he hopes for a full repeal, he acknowledged Thursday that he might still be willing to support a partial repeal.
“I ran on full repeal and that’s what I’m for, but I also said that I’d vote for partial repeal,” Paul said. “What I’ve objected to some in the bill is that we’ve padded the bill with extraneous, very expensive items that I think would bankrupt the country.”
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