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By Juliegrace Brufke
Conservative Sen. Rand Paul and House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Jim Jordan announced Tuesday they plan to reintroduce legislation repealing Obamacare that overwhelmingly passed Congress along party lines in 2015.
House leadership backed the American Health Care Act, which critics have dubbed “Obamacare lite.” Multiple provisions have been criticized, namely its language on refundable tax credits.
“Our goal is real simple: Bring down the cost of insurance for working families and middle-class families across this country. In an effort to do that we think you have to get rid of Obamacare completely. So tomorrow I will introduce a bill that every single Republican voted on just 15 months ago – the bill that actually repeals Obamacare,” Jordan said at a press conference. “Our plan has always been repeal in one piece of legislation and replace in the other. And that replacement we talked about a few weeks ago is the bill sponsored by Dr. Paul in the Senate and Mark Sanford in the House.”
According to Jordan, there was a strong consensus in the party around the 2015 reconciliation bill, as it eliminated all of the Obamacare taxes and the mandates.
“Now the first thing Republicans are bringing forward is a piece of legislation that we’re going to put on a Republican president’s desk that says we repeal it but keeps Medicaid expansion and actually expands it, that keeps some of the tax increases – that is not what we promised the American people we were going to do,” Jordan said. “So our plan: Repeal it – clean repeal, just like we all voted on before – separate legislation to replace what we currently have with a model that we think will bring down the cost of premiums for the hard-working people of this country who sent us here to do just that.”
Paul echoed Jordan’s sentiments in passing a clean bill, noting how members of the conference are divided on how to best move forward with the replacement. According to the Kentucky Republican, the only way they will complete the process is if they separate out the issues — a slight change from his earlier stance that the repeal and replacement should happen simultaneously.
“What’s the best way to get past this impasse? Let’s vote on what we voted on before, a clean repeal,” he said. “Let’s separate out the replacement plans — conservatives have a replacement plan, House leadership has a replacement plan, I’m sure Democrats would like to go back and vote on the ACA again. Vote on all the replacement plans and see what happens.”
Paul said he believes they are just at the starting point of negotiations, adding he would not object to voting for the House bill if they removed the “objectionable items” from its text.
“What I would put forward as that evidence is a half a dozen members from the Freedom Caucus, half a dozen conservative members in the Senate have been contacted by the White House have been contacted Tom Price and are in discussions with the vice president,” he said. “The House Freedom Caucus has enormous power if they stay together, so do the conservatives in the Senate. And it is unknown what the product will be, but I promise you the White House, the cabinet and everybody else assumes there will be a negotiation or they wouldn’t be making all these phone calls and arranging all these appointments with conservatives in the House and Senate.
Paul put forward his own HFC-backed replacement plan earlier this year; Rep. Mark Sanford introduced a companion bill in the House.