Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) told Breitbart News exclusively on Tuesday afternoon that he expects House Speaker Paul Ryan will be forced to pull the American Health Care Act (AHCA) before a scheduled Thursday vote because Ryan will not get the votes to pass the legislation.
The AHCA has been dubbed “Obamacare Lite” by Paul — a leading conservative critic of the plan — and by other conservatives as “RyanCare,” “RINO-Care,” and “Obamacare 2.0,” since the bill does not actually fully repeal Obamacare and keeps many of the main structures that the now-former President Barack Obama installed in the healthcare system. It has come under intense scrutiny from both sides of the Republican Party — moderates and conservatives are lining up against the bill — and Ryan, despite publicly projecting confidence, cannot find the necessary 216 votes to pass the legislation.
Paul, one of the leading senators out of more than a dozen Republicans in the upper chamber criticizing the bill there, told Breitbart News in this exclusive interview he believes there are at least 35 House Republicans ready to vote against the bill in its current form. And he predicted that, unless some major changes come to the legislation between now and the scheduled vote on Thursday, Ryan will need to withdraw the bill and Republicans will have to start from scratch with a new bill and a new strategy on Obamacare.
Paul said in the in-person interview at his U.S. Senate office in the Russell Senate Office Building:
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. 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. 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.
— Sergio Gor (@SergioGor) March 21, 2017
There is plenty of reason to believe that Paul is correct in predicting Ryan does not have the votes to pass this legislation and will need to pull the bill to start over. Despite overtures from President Donald Trump, the House Freedom Caucus members — and particularly its chairman Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) — remain steadfastly opposed to the bill.
NBC News has confirmed at least 26 Republicans who are opposed:
— Mark Murray (@mmurraypolitics) March 21, 2017
But Breitbart News can confirm several more than that are definitely opposed to the legislation. To kill the bill, Republicans need just 21 Republicans opposed—and some are talking about holding a press conference on Wednesday or Thursday with the necessary number of House Republicans to crush RyanCare, appearing arm-in-arm in public opposition before a vote.
House GOP leadership made some last minute changes, too, which Paul — in his interview with Breitbart News — flatly said “no,” were not enough to get the bill passed. Regarding those changed, Paul said:
If you keep all the insurance mandates, and you keep subsidizing insurance, basically it’s Obamacare Lite. So I think it’s still Obamacare Lite. The modifications, some are going in the right direction, but they actually expanded some of the subsidies. So one of the new things about it is it’s actually $75 billion more in subsidies. So, I think they’re stuck trying to split the baby. They’re trying to give conservatives a few token changes. And they’re trying to give the moderates more subsidies.
Paul added that Ryan would not have dragged President Trump into this awful position if he had been more open and inclusive in the process from the beginning. In effect, Paul argued as he has done before, that Ryan is hurting President Trump by doing this the way he is doing it. Paul said:
I’m still unclear as to why they completely ignored conservatives early on in the process and then they had the audacity to look at conservatives and say ‘this is what you all campaigned on.’ That just, frankly, was never true. I was elected in 2010 in the big Tea Party wave that was for repealing Obamacare root and branch, rip the whole thing out. We were for repealing it. I still think that our grassroots conservative supporters are for repealing it. But somewhere along the line, Paul Ryan decided that it wasn’t so much about repealing it but about replacing it with Obamacare Lite. And I think that was a tactical error on their part to think ‘oh, we’ll just be for this and everybody will be for this’ when in reality no conservatives are really for the Ryan plan.
Paul would not say if Ryan will lose the confidence necessary to run the House of Representatives if this bill fails, as some have suggested. When asked if Ryan can still run the House if the bill goes down, Paul told Breitbart News that instead he thinks the bill going down would lead to real negotiations on healthcare reform. He said:
I think what it will be is the real negotiations will begin the moment his bill fails, and when his bill fails conservatives will have a seat at the table. As long as conservatives stay unified and don’t start negotiating one person at a time — what’s a really bad part of negotiations is if everybody starts saying individually ‘oh if you give me this, give me this, give me this’ because then you won’t really fix the main thrust of the bill and the main outcome is that insurance premiums continue to rise and we continue to bail out insurance companies that’s not repeal of Obamacare—that’s Obamacare Lite.
More from Sen. Rand Paul’s latest exclusive interview with Breitbart News is forthcoming.