Paul proposes health care bill, seeks to unite GOP
Senator hopes to gain support of moderates
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky floated a compromise Obamacare repeal plan Monday, hoping to break a stalemate on Capitol Hill by proposing to cut the level of spending to try to appease conservatives but keep the basic model of taxpayer subsidies in place to win over moderates.
Mr. Paul, a Republican, has met with President Trump to try to find a way forward after conservatives and moderates balked at Mr. Trump’s first attempt.
Conservatives called it “Obamacare lite” because it included a new entitlement — refundable tax credits — to replace Obamacare’s existing subsidies. Centrists were spooked by predictions of 24 million fewer people being insured over the next decade under the GOP plan.
“I think the compromise could be keeping some of the underlying payments in Obamacare, some small percentage of them, in order to placate the people who want that, but not affirmatively putting it in the bill,” Mr. Paul said. “Conservatives want 100 percent repeal, let’s say moderates want 80 percent repeal. Let’s vote on 90 percent repeal and be done with it.”
The House GOP plan had scrapped Obamacare’s generous taxpayer subsidies to help people afford to buy insurance, and replaced it with a refundable tax credit. Mr. Paul would keep the subsidies in place, so conservatives don’t have to back a new GOP entitlement, but would cut the level of spending so it’s more palatable to budget hawks.
Mr. Paul said he mentioned the idea to Mr. Trump, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney over a Sunday round of golf, but that they leaned toward tweaks instead of wholesale changes.
“I think really their opinion right now is to see if they still want to just keep working with what they have, and we’ll see. If they can get enough votes, maybe it goes that way,” Mr. Paul said. “I’m trying to offer a different way in case we’re still at an impasse.”
Mr. Paul also pitched the idea to members of the House Freedom Caucus — the conservatives who helped sink the repeal effort last month. The senator demurred when asked about the reaction.
“Everything’s still open. We need to see what happens,” Mr. Paul said.
The discussions do, however, indicate that Republicans haven’t completely moved on from the health care debate after their embarrassing first try.
The White House hasn’t plotted out a strategy, though it insists Mr. Trump is listening to all sides about a path forward.
“Talks on Repealing and Replacing Obama Care are, and have been, going on, and will continue until such time as a deal is hopefully struck,” Mr. Trump tweeted on Sunday.
He also tweeted that anyone who thinks the repeal-and-replace strategy is dead “does not know the love and strength” within the Republican Party.
Indeed, Obamacare opponents notched a victory in Kansas on Monday when Republicans sustained Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of a bill to expand Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Democratic and centrist Republican supporters of expansion fell three votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed to trump the governor in the 125-member chamber.