Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul was turned away Thursday as he attempted to enter Room H157 in the Capitol to read Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) so-called Obamacare secret draft.
At the door of the Capitol room, the conservative senator, who has developed his own bill, along with members of the House Freedom Caucus, which is the House’s conservative bloc, said, “In my state of Kentucky, it is illegal to do this.” He added, “You can’t do this. You can’t have legislation locked behind closed doors in my state.”
Paul said the text of the speaker’s bill was being treated as if it were a national secret, such as a plot to invade another country. “It’s wrong.”
The senator, who is an eye surgeon, said the bill needs to be developed in public.
“Conservatives, who have objections, who don’t want Obamacare-lite should be able to see the bill,” he said.
The senator said that it was his understanding that the Congressional Budget Office has already scored the bill’s draft and that the CBO staff will not give the report to the senator because the preliminary scoring is part of the legislative process. “I am a part of the legislature. Shouldn’t I be part of the process? I was elected to represent my state, and I am not allowed. I am not allowed to read the working product so that I can comment on it?”
Paul was elected in 2010 as a Tea Party insurgent, winning the Republican primary against the handpicked selection of Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R.-KY.). The junior senator and the senior senator have not always gotten along, but in the last four years, the men have found a way. In the 2014 primary, Paul endorsed McConnell in his primary. One year ago, Paul suspended his campaign for president and returned to the job of being a senator full-time–and to make sure he defended his Senate seat.
Coming into 2017, Paul has a new vigor and confidence. It is like the experience of running for president, and circulating with regular Americans helps him resist the urge to go-along-to-get-along. Paul enters his second term, unlike Sen. Cory Booker (D.-N.J.), aware of the difference between making a point on principle and just being a jerk.
“Most of the people who went to rallies to rally for Republicans said they wanted to repeal Obamacare. I don’t think they wanted Obamacare-lite,” he said.
“I don’t think they wanted a new entitlement program. I don’t think they wanted a Cadillac tax on their insurance. I don’t think they wanted the individual mandate,” he said.
The senator stated that it is his understanding that the individual mandate will survive in the Ryan plan as an obligation to a private insurance company. “You will have to pay a fine to the insurance company.”
Standing in front of the room, where he said they keep the secret text, Paul took questions and calmly explained exactly what he was dealing with.
“It’s the secret office for the secret bill,” he said.
Not all members of the House are allowed to see the bill, and none of the senators have been allowed to see it, he said.
Even if an arrangement was made for Paul to read the bill, he said he wanted everyone to have the chance to see what it is about.
“I think there is a bill in there,” he said. “They told me I can’t have a copy. I guess I’m upset that I have to get the bill from the media. You would think that it would circulate around. There are people describing various aspects of it–pretty significant in detail, but without letting any of us see it in writing, that’s just not fair.”
“I have been told by others I should sit back and take it: ‘You will see it. You will get it. You will take the House version or nothing else’. I don’t think that’s how the America process should work,” he said.
In the end, Paul said the Republican leadership is moving forward with their version that they will then dare Capitol Hill conservatives to vote against.