Sen. Rand Paul said on Thursday that he and his Republican colleagues remain at an “impasse” on striking a compromise on Obamacare repeal legislation, and suggested that the only way to appease the moderate and conservative wings of the GOP might be to split the bill in two.
"I still sense that we’re at impasse," Paul told Fox News’s “Fox & Friends” Thursday morning, adding, "There’s still quite a bit of disagreement."
Paul (R-Ky.) is one of at least eight senators who have said that they oppose the repeal-and-replace legislation introduced by Republican leadership in the Senate last week. Some lawmakers, including Paul and other conservatives, have opposed the bill because it does not go far enough in repealing Obamacare, while other, more moderate members like Sens. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) argue the bill’s cuts are too severe.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is hoping to have a new deal — at least in principle — on an Obamacare repeal-and-replace bill as soon as Friday, after GOP leadership was forced to pull a procedural vote earlier this week due to the lack of Republican support. Some details have started to emerge about a potential compromise, including adding at least $45 billion to address the opioid crisis and allowing consumers to use Health Savings Account money to pay for their premiums.
But Paul said a solution is to split the GOP’s healthcare agenda into two bills: a “clean repeal” to appease conservatives by completely undoing Obamacare and a second bill focused on spending that could be hashed out between Democrats and moderate Republicans.
“Do the repeal, which no Democrat will vote for, repeal the taxes, repeal the regulations, and fix the Medicaid that helps to pay for everything,” Paul said. “No Democrats will vote for anything good like that. But Democrats will always vote for spending. So the big-government Republicans that want more spending take the spending and put it in a bill that the Democrats will vote for.”
Paul said he had suggested his strategy to President Donald Trump during a Wednesday conversation about the health care legislation and that the president seemed open to the idea. The Kentucky senator said such a plan could benefit from Trump’s leadership and that the president “has the force of personality and the bully pulpit of the presidency” to force it through.
The schism among Senate Republicans is similar to the one their House colleagues managed to bridge last May with the passage of repeal-and-replace legislation that the White House celebrated with a Rose Garden pep rally. But even in the House, where the Republican majority is wider than it is in the Senate, GOP members struggled to find compromise and only managed to narrowly pass their healthcare bill by a handful of votes on a second attempt.
In the Senate, Republicans can afford to lose just two GOP votes and still pass their repeal-and-replace measure. Any legislation passed by the Senate would need to be reconciled with the House version before going to the president’s desk.
“Well, see, the typical way in Washington that they fix things is they give everybody money, and I think that’s what’s going to happen now,” Paul said of the negotiation process. “Half of them want more money and half of them want less money. That’s why it doesn’t work to have one bill because every time you stuff more money in it for the moderates, it offends the conservatives.”