(Quin Hillyer, Liberty Headlines) U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky continues to stand as the most unyielding obstacle to Congress’ last-ditch effort to replace Obamacare with a set of health-care policies that is far more conservative.
At this writing mid-day Wednesday, Sept. 20, Senate Republican leaders continue working to get the 50 votes needed to pass the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson (henceforth GCHJ) plan to destroy the national bureaucratic superstructure of Obamacare and send the money and policy choices back to the states.
Without Paul’s vote, leaders can lose only one more of the 52 Senate Republicans if they hope to pass the bill, since no Democrats have yet shown any interest in it. President Trump fully supports the bill.
Paul oddly calls GCHJ “just another big government boondoggle,” even as liberal Vox reporter Sarah Kliff writes, in total contrast to Paul, that “while other Republican plans essentially create a poorly funded version of the Affordable Care Act, Graham-Cassidy blows it up.”
Chris Pope of the Manhattan Institute, a highly respected conservative think tank known for close attention to how policies work in practice, agrees with Kliff.
“Graham-Cassidy has merit,” Pope writes, “because it holds out the prospect of reconstructing a properly competitive insurance market. It also represents a major improvement over the current structure of Medicaid. Its critics, including Senator Rand Paul, are wrong to argue that it leaves 90 percent of Obamacare intact.”
Pope also notes that GCHJ “It also greatly expands the flexibility and potential uses of Health Savings Accounts” – the free-market health-care system conservatives have long championed.
Hard-line conservative activist groups such as the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks have neither endorsed nor opposed GCHJ, but say it holds promise (if some tweaks are made). And conservative stalwart Ned Ryun, CEO of American Majority and a key player in the movement to support conservative Gov. Scott Walker’s successful labor reforms in Wisconsin, admits that while GCHJ isn’t perfect, neither is Paul’s stance praiseworthy.
“While I understand Senator Rand Paul’s decision to stand in the way of any improvement,” Ryun said, “it is counterproductive.”
Of course, Paul isn’t the only possible Republican Senate opponent of the bill, but he’s the most implacable. Susan Collins of Maine, the least conservative Republican senator, says she is leaning against it, and both John McCain of Arizona and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska are on the fence. But Arizona’s Republican governor Doug Ducey, a McCain ally, has strongly endorsed the bill, and McCain’s closest friend in the Senate is bill author Lindsey Graham.
As for Murkowski, CNN reports “there is substantive work at play to bring her around. Republican leaders and administration officials are attempting to craft a proposal to put Alaska in a much better place in the bill as it relates to its funding formula for its block grant.”
Paul is the only one who won’t even hint at budging. Yet as many observers have pointed out, Paul did vote a few months ago for the “skinny repeal” bill (eventually killed by McCain) that at the time was thought to be the Senate’s last chance to replace Obamacare – even though “skinny repeal” did far less to dismantle Obamacare than GCHJ does.