Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky met with a group of 24 House conservatives Thursday in an attempt to sway them to vote against the reconciliation bill being used to repeal Obamacare due to its budget numbers.
Proponents of the legislation, which would require just 51 votes to pass in the upper chamber, argue it’s only being used as a vehicle to repeal the Affordable Care Act. But Paul is pushing for the numbers to be renegotiated to meet the requirements put in place under the balanced budget amendment.
“I want to make sure that conservatives in the House knew that together we can have some power and impact on what the budget will be, that the budget is a Republican document there will be no Democrats on board,” he told reporters after the meeting. “It should be a conservative document that should not add $9.7 trillion to the debt over 10 years.”
Paul said he’s concerned if Republicans pass the budget in its current form, those calling for higher spending levels in the future could use it as leverage to push them to vote for measures that don’t meet conservative principles.
“I think there is a danger to being on record as being for the $9.7 trillion in debt,” he said. “Because in four months conservatives will say, ‘Oh no, we’re going to be better negotiators in four months,’ but the problem is in four months they’ll (leadership) say, ‘Well, we really want tax reform, just eat a bad budget, take a bad budget in order to get tax reform.’ So, I think the budget is important.”
Paul said it would take just a handful of conservatives — roughly 25 House members or two in the Senate — to stop the budget, adding it has been an “uphill battle” to garner the support needed in the upper chamber.
The meeting’s attendees largely consisted of House Freedom Caucus members — the powerful congressional caucus known for its support of fiscal conservatism — with the addition of Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie. HFC Chairman Mark Meadows said it was a” very enlightening and good meeting,” but the group has not yet taken an official position on whether they will support the measure.
Arizona Rep. Trent Franks agreed with Paul in that he believes the vehicle being used to repeal the ACA should also be fiscally responsible.
“As it is, if it’s not really anything but a vehicle for the reconciliation and essentially the numbers don’t matter, then why not put good numbers in it?” he told reporters, adding he is waiting to see what the strategic plan looks like before he decides how he’ll vote. “Right now, and it’s the most important thing I’m going to say to you, right now the Senate rules, if left exactly as they are put the Republican party on the pathway, the inevitable path, to repealing part of Obamacare and becoming blamed for its ignominious failure.”
Paul, who also advocated for repealing and replacing Obamacare simultaneously at the meeting, said he doesn’t want to characterize the group’s opinion, but hopes they can band together as conservatives to work toward accomplishing common goals.
“You know, I enjoy coming over here it’s a great discussion, these are all conservatives, people who believe in capitalism, the free market and the things that really made our country thrive and be the economic engine in the world so I enjoy having the discussion with them,” he said. “Like anything else with elected officials, we won’t agree with everything and I gave them my pitch over why the budget ought to be better.”
Paul proposed freezing spending in an attempt to bring down the debt, which he has asserted is one of the country’s most pressing issues.
“I have an amendment, it will be amendment number one to the Senate budget and my amendment freezes all on-budget spending and the budget will balance, starting in 2018, in about five years — so it’s about a five, five-and-a-half year process to balance it,” he said. “But what we’re voting on, the Republican alternative, never balances.”
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