As Republicans celebrated the narrow House passage of the American Health Care Act on Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul wanted to know what they were so happy about.
“I really frankly am not too excited about subsidizing the profit of insurance companies,” Paul told Fox News’ Neil Cavuto, saying that those companies profits jumped from $6 billion to $15 billion a year under ObamaCare. “They make a great deal of profit,” he added.
The senator wanted to know how his party could get behind this in good conscience.
“There’s about $300 or $400 billion in this bill for insurance company profit,” Paul continued. “It boggles my mind how that became a Republican idea.”
Paul acknowledged that the House Freedom Caucus had improved the bill somewhat, but that it was still too problematic in its current state for him to get behind.
“Sounds like you’d be a ‘no’ vote,” Cavuto asked Paul.
“It’s going to take a little bit of work to get me to a ‘yes’ vote, but I do have an open mind,” Paul said. “There’s not been a louder voice up here for replacing ObamaCare. I really want to repeal it. I just don’t want to replace it with ‘ObamaCare lite’ or another federal program.”
Paul had been a major critic of the American Health Care Act in its original form, calling it “Obamacare-lite” from the beginning of the debate. The senator outlined some of the major changes he would like to see in health care laws in an op-ed at Rare in early January, which included the freedom to purchase coverage across state lines and for individuals to have the ability to join together in voluntary associations to gain leverage as part of a large insurance pool.
Paul repeated some of these changes he would like to see on Thursday and worried that the current Republican legislation still looks too much like Obamacare.
“If it was a choice between rejecting this or keeping what we have,” Cavuto asked the senator, “how would Rand Paul go?”
“Well that’s sort of the question,” Paul responded. “So Obamacare has a trillion dollars worth of spending, this will have maybe a half a trillion. So you can say ‘oh we saved half a trillion.’ Or you could say ‘you know what, we used to be for repealing the whole trillion.”
“What we ran on was repealing that trillion dollar program,” Paul said. “There’s a lot of mental gymnastics going on there, that for many of us who are small government people… it concerns us that a ‘big victory’ is giving us half as much as Obamacare was.”
Senate Republicans have already said that the bill won’t be passed or even voted on in its current form.
Disclosure: I co-authored the 2011 book The Tea Party Goes to Washington with Sen. Rand Paul.