SHELBYVILLE, Ky. — U.S. Sen Rand Paul lashed out again Monday at the Senate Republican health care plan and the tactics used to try to win its passage, but the conservative Kentuckian said he wants to do his part to help salvage the legislation.
After hearing from constituents who complained about the rising costs of health insurance, Paul told reporters that Senate Republicans remain at an impasse over a replacement to former President Barack Obama’s 2009 health care overhaul.
“I still want to be part of the solution,” Paul told reporters before returning to Washington after the July Fourth congressional recess.
“I’m a believer in not just being a ‘no’ vote,” he added. “I want to figure out, how do we get something done?”
Paul said he remains firm in his belief that the Senate should pursue a repeal of Obama’s health care law and a replacement measure separately.
“The bill has to look more like repeal for me to get on board,” Paul said. “It looks to me like a big insurance company bailout. … I see no reason we should give any taxpayer money to insurance companies. So we’ve got a ways to go on this.”
At least 10 GOP senators have expressed opposition to the initial bill drafted by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky’s senior senator. Republicans hold a 52-48 majority and Democrats stand united against the bill, meaning that just three GOP defections will doom it.
“There’s a jockeying back and forth right now,” Paul said. “Some in the Senate leadership are saying, ‘Forget the conservatives, we’re just going to work with the Democrats.’ I’m of the opinion they should come to those in their party who want to be supportive of repeal. Let’s make the bill look more like repeal. And I think we can still get it done.”
McConnell last week said he would introduce a fresh bill in about a week. But McConnell acknowledged that if the broader effort fails, he may turn to a smaller bill with quick help for insurers and consumers and negotiate with Democrats.
Paul lashed out at tactics he said are being used to try to win over reluctant Senate Republicans: “Some people think that they can add enough goodies, federal spending, on there to buy off the votes of Republicans.”
Paul said he spoke with President Donald Trump this past weekend and welcomed his involvement in the process. Paul said he and his one-time rival for the GOP presidential nomination share a “conservative vision” for revamping health care.
In a tweet Monday, Trump pressed Congress to finish work on health care before its August recess. Paul said the president might be able to jump-start progress.
“It’s just a matter of are we yet at an impasse where he looks to the leadership and says, ‘You know what, you guys have not found the solution. I’m going to help you find the solution,'” Paul said.
“And if he’s a little bit more forceful at that, I think he has the cache and the public popularity to actually get them to do the right thing. And the right thing to me is fulfill our promises. We promised to repeal it.”
Shelby County farmer Mary Courtney, who attended the round-table discussion with Paul in Shelbyville, said afterward she’s looking for Congress to lower costs. She said her family pays about $1,400 a month in premiums for private insurance. “To kind of put that in perspective, that would be enough to pay for another farm,” she said.
“It would be great to have a fair program,” she said. “We have high insurance costs because other people aren’t paying for their medical needs. We aren’t dependent on the government for our needs. So it would be great for us to pay what’s fair, but not pay in excess of that.”
Paul said one way to lower costs would be to let people seeking to buy health insurance on the individual market join together to give them bargaining power with insurance companies. Kentucky already allows this, but the associations cannot cross state lines and not everyone qualifies.
“You’d have enormous leverage to get a cheaper product and also to get what you want — that pre-existing conditions are covered,” he said.