Rand Paul: Conservatives Have The Votes To Kill ‘Obamacare-Lite’

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Congressional conservatives say they have enough support in both houses to force Republican leadership to work on a broader Obamacare repeal bill similar to the one the GOP passed in 2016.

“I think we have the votes now to tell the leadership this is what we want to do,” Republican Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul told reporters Tuesday. “I think the conservatives are coalescing around a complete repeal … we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Paul, Utah Sen. Mike Lee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz each tweeted the same message Monday in opposition to the draft legislation for Obamacare repeal that was leaked last week. House Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Mark Meadows and Republican Study Committee Rep. Mark Walker also announced Monday that they would not support that version of repeal.

The most recent draft of Obamacare legislation suggested by leadership is “not a complete repeal,” Paul charged, and is a measure “that some of us would refer to as Obamacare-lite.”

Top conservatives are working to get the repeal effort back to the form Congress passed last year, which was vetoed by President Obama. Paul, Meadows, and former Freedom Caucus chairman Rep. Jim Jordan emphasized Thursday that after winning multiple elections based on support for Obamacare repeal, Republican legislation should fully rescind the health care law.

Meadows pushed back Tuesday on the impression House Speaker Paul Ryan gave that Republicans are all discussing the same version of a repeal.

“I can tell you from a ‘everybody is on the same plan or discussing the same plan’ — that obviously is not accurate, based on the number of public statements and really legitimate concerns that my colleagues here in the House and Sen. Rand Paul’s in the Senate have,” Meadows said.

The conservative group maintains that Congress should vote on a similar repeal bill to the one that was passed in 2016. Paul said that repeal and replace could happen on the same day, but that the GOP should split the measures into separate bills.

“I think it needs to be a separate package,” Paul said, arguing that on its own, the repeal that Congress passed in 2016 with party-line support would have a similarly easy time being approved. “The replacement or Medicaid expansion could be separate votes.”

The GOP is split on how to replace large swaths of Obamacare and how to pay for its own health care alternatives. (RELATED: Divide Over Medicaid Remains Following Bipartisan Meeting)

The repeal draft released last week would finance itself by ending a tax deduction for some employer-based health care plans — a provision that has attracted significant pushback.

“The tax increase — and make no bones about it, it is a tax increase on hardworking Americans — would actually have a chilling effect on those that get … employer-based health care,” Meadows said Tuesday.

The group supports alternative measures, such as one included in Paul’s own Obamacare replacement plan, to extend a similar tax deduction for health insurance purchased by associations and individuals.

When asked whether resistance to the leadership’s proposals would endanger Obamacare repeal, the answer was a resounding no.

“Not at all — we actually think you should do what you said you’d do,” Rep. Jim Jordan, a former leader of the Freedom Caucus, told reporters, calling the conservative option “the one plan that’s consistent with what the voters expect us to do and what they sent us here to do.”

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