Politics & Government

Another delay gives Rand Paul more time to fight health bill

Kentucky Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, left, on Capitol Hill in Washington in January.
Kentucky Senators Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell, left, on Capitol Hill in Washington in January. AP

An unexpected delay in plans to hold a vote on the Senate health-care bill will strengthen the position of conservative critics by giving them more time to mobilize, according to one of the measure’s most outspoken opponents.

“The longer the bill is out there, the more conservative Republicans are going to discover it is not repeal,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Sunday in an interview with CBS.

“I think it’s absolutely wrong,” Paul said of the bill. “It’s not at all consistent with Republican principles. ... We promised repeal.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., put off plans to hold a vote on the bill this week, after Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he would be at home in Arizona recovering from a surgery to remove a blood clot from above his left eye. McCain’s absence will leave Republicans without the votes necessary to advance the legislation.

Paul and Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, for different reasons, have said they will not vote even to proceed to the legislation on the Senate floor. Along with all 48 senators in the Democratic Caucus — and without McCain — their opposition would be enough to block the bill from advancing.

President Trump did not mention the health-care bill or McCain’s surgery in an angry tweetstorm Sunday morning that mentioned Hillary Clinton and the Russia controversy now engulfing the administration, among other topics.

But leading officials with the Trump administration have spent the past several days trying to convince Republican governors, including those in states that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, to support the Senate bill.

Yet the effort led by Vice President Mike Pence at the summer meeting of the National Governors Association seemed not to change minds, and might have hardened some opposition to the legislation.

Collins disagreed with Pence’s comment to governors that the bill “strengthens and secures Medicaid for the neediest in our society.”

“You can’t take more than $700 billion out of the Medicaid program and not think that it’s going to have some kind of effect,” Collins said in an interview Sunday with CNN.

“This bill imposes fundamental, sweeping changes in the Medicaid program and those include very deep cuts that would affect some of the most vulnerable people in our society, including disabled children and poor seniors. It would affect our rural hospitals and our nursing homes, and they would have a very hard time even staying in existence.”

Paul criticized the Republican bill for keeping the same “fundamental flaw” that he said has caused premiums to surge under the Affordable Care Act.

“They are subsidizing the death spiral of Obamacare,” Paul said. “They don’t fix it — they just subsidize it with taxpayer moneys.”

Both senators raised doubts about wider Republican support for the bill.

“There are about 8 to 10 Republican senators who have serious concerns about this bill, so at the end of the day, I don’t know whether it will pass,” Collins said.

Asked if McConnell has the votes for passage, Paul was blunt. “I don’t think right now he does,” he said in an interview with Fox News.