Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) sharply criticized central elements of the emerging Senate Republican healthcare bill on Thursday, indicating that he will vote against it unless dramatic changes are made.
Paul denounced as “new entitlements” two core elements of the Republican bill in both the House and Senate: a refundable tax credit to help people buy insurance and a “stabilization fund” of money to help bring down premiums.
“I think we shouldn’t have new entitlements that will go on forever in a Republican plan to fix healthcare,” Paul told a small group of reporters. “We can’t pay for what we already have: Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.”
Asked if he would vote “no,” Paul said: “What I’m telling them is if they get to an impasse, come talk to me, because I’m more than willing to vote for a partial repeal if I can’t get complete repeal, but I’m not willing to vote for new Republican entitlement programs.”
Paul is perhaps the strongest voice of opposition to the emerging direction of the bill so far.
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is another potential conservative “no” vote. Lee said Sunday that he has “grave concerns” about the way the bill is headed.
Conservative Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), in contrast, has held his fire so far, taking a more conciliatory approach toward GOP leaders than he has in the past.
Many conservatives are worried that the bill is being changed to win over moderate Republicans, for example by allowing a longer phase-out of Medicaid expansion funds.
Republicans have a thin margin to move legislation: They can only lose two members and still have the 50 votes needed to pass it.
Paul has been less vocal about his opposition than he was when the bill was moving through the House. Then, he made headlines by wheeling a photocopier across the Capitol to try to find a copy of the House bill.
Asked about the Senate’s process, Paul pointed to committee hearings, which Republicans are foregoing in a major break from the traditional legislative process.
“I think I would have preferred that it go through committee,” Paul said. “But they’ve chosen to do it the way they are and we’ll see. But the proof’s in the details when they finally get a bill out.”
Asked if he would be bringing his photocopier back out, Paul smiled and said, “We’ll see.”