Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, one of a number of GOP lawmakers opposed to the American Health Care Act, has predicted there won’t be enough votes to pass it, causing it to be withdrawn and forcing Republican leaders to start over. The AHCA is the bill touted by House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and backed by President Donald J. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, that has been proposed as the Republican alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
In an interview with Breitbart News, Paul – who has dubbed the AHCA “Obamacare Lite,” while other conservatives have dubbed it “RyanCare,” “RINO-Care,” and “Obamacare 2.0” – has been vocally critical of the legislation. The senator notes it does not fully repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, which is what Republicans and the president promised voters.
He has said that the AHCA, which Ryan has said is merely the first in a three-phase repeal-and-replace effort, leaves in place many of the worst elements of Obamacare. The Ryan-led effort has come under severe criticism from the most conservative lawmakers, many of whom have vowed to oppose it unless major changes are made first. (RELATED: Are #NeverTrump Lawmakers Working To Sabotage Obamacare Repeal So Trump Can’t Take Credit?)
“I think there’s easily 35 ‘no’ votes right now so unless something happens in the next 24 hours, I would predict they pull the bill and start over,” Paul told Breitbart, regarding Republican votes in the House. Currently, there are 237 Republicans in the House compared with 193 Democrats and five vacancies (four of the GOP seats of lawmakers who left to join the Trump administration). In a full House (435 members), a 218-vote majority is needed to advance legislation to the Senate.
Breitbart noted that in order to kill the legislation, just 21 Republican “no” votes are needed.
“I think if conservatives stick together, they will have earned a seat at the table where real negotiation to make this bill an acceptable bill will happen. But it’s interesting what conservatives are doing to change the debate,” said Paul. “We went from keeping the Obamacare taxes for a year—hundreds of billions of dollars—but they’re coming towards us because we’re standing firm. So we have to stick together, and if we do stick together there will be a real negotiation on this.
“The main goal I have is not to pass something that does not fix the situation. If a year from now, insurance rates and premiums are still going through the roof and it’s now a Republican plan it will be a disservice to the president and all of us if we pass something that doesn’t work,” he said.
Earlier, Paul openly questioned whether House Republican leaders were intentionally trying to fool President Trump.
Some changes have been made to the bill, though House conservatives are still not pleased. One such change angered conservatives anew on Tuesday when a provision meant to crack down on illegal aliens receiving federal health benefits was taken out, Reuters reported, adding:
The provision would have allowed the Treasury Department to access data at the Department of Homeland Security to verify that healthcare tax credits went only to U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents, not to illegal immigrants.
“I am concerned that the bill lacks sufficient safeguards for verifying whether or not an individual applying for health care tax credits is lawfully in this country and eligible to receive them,” said Rep. Lou Barletta, R-Pa., in a statement in which he said he could no longer support the bill.
In the Senate, moderate Republicans like Sens. Olympia Snowe of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have said they are concerned about provisions in the AHCA that would rescind Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion, though pulling it would save taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars a year, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office analysis. (RELATED: CBO was wrong over Obamacare sign-ups – or half-right, depending on how you look at it)
Among other issues that have been raised: Under the AHCA, millions of veterans would become ineligible to receive tax credits, the Washington Examiner reported, something that will also likely cause many Republicans who otherwise support the military to vote “no.”
Under the original bill, veterans could get tax credits to help pay for insurance coverage so long as they weren’t already enrolled in a Veterans Affairs health program. But either by design or by accident, staffers struck that language in making changes that say service members could now only qualify for tax credits if they’re not eligible for other government healthcare programs. Chris Jacobs, a healthcare analyst at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, told the Washington Examiner that change means “individuals eligible for, but not enrolled in, VA coverage” would not qualify for new insurance subsidies.
“With just the stroke of a pen, some legislative staffer would force millions of veterans to rely on the VA for their healthcare whether they want it or not,” the Washington Examiner reported.
J.D. Heyes is a senior writer for NaturalNews.com and NewsTarget.com, as well as editor of The National Sentinel.