Will Grandstand Rand Sabotage Obamacare Repeal?

Senator Rand Paul is an expert at exploiting controversial public policy issues in order to garner personal publicity. Like his famously opportunistic father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul, his modus operandi invariably involves parroting the Democrats, disparaging his own party, and pandering to the media. Thus we find the Kentucky senator accusing House Speaker Paul Ryan and other responsible Republicans of secretly conspiring to impose “Obamacare Lite” on the electorate. This is nonsense, but his rhetoric fits the “GOP divided on repeal” narrative peddled by the Democrats and press, so Grandstand Rand is getting a lot of “earned” coverage.

Paul’s latest publicity stunt, as Speaker Ryan accurately characterized it, was to hold a news conference outside a Capitol Hill meeting room where work was scheduled to be done on an Obamacare replacement bill by members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He conflated their deliberations with tactics used by the Democrats to get the law passed: “When Obamacare was passed in 2009 and 2010, Nancy Pelosi said you’ll know what’s in it after you pass it. The Republican Party shouldn’t act in the same way.” This cynical description of the committee’s work confirms Paul as a publicity hound and a brazen hypocrite, as well.

When he had a real chance to do something about genuine Obamacare skulduggery, in April of 2015, Senator Paul actually colluded with the Democrats. One of the most disgraceful episodes in the sorry saga of this health-care “reform” law involves a falsified document submitted to the D.C. Small Business Exchange enabling members of Congress and their staffers to receive subsidies to which they are not legally entitled. The chairman of the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee tried to subpoena the exchange for an unredacted copy of that document to see who falsified it. Paul voted with the Democrats to quash the subpoena.

And we now find the very same man who helped keep illegal subsidies in place for himself and his staff, sanctimoniously denouncing Speaker Ryan for merely discussing the inclusion of tax credits in an Obamacare replacement bill: “Obamacare had subsidies — if we call them refundable tax credits, have we really done anything other than change the name?” It is little wonder that the members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are reluctant to give him access to the replacement plan. At best, he would deliberately misrepresent it in order to grab a few cheap headlines, and he may well sabotage the repeal of the hated health-care law.

The latter possibility has existed since Donald Trump trounced Senator Paul, et al., in the GOP primaries and won the general election with a campaign that featured a pledge to repeal Obamacare. The Fiscal Times speculated on it in a January piece titled, “Could Rand Paul End Up Saving Obamacare?” And the legacy media are publicizing his latest antics with unalloyed glee. New York Magazine reports that, when the committee meeting was relocated for routine reasons, “The Kentucky senator proceeded to take the Capitol Hill press corps on a whimsical journey designed to paint his own party’s legislative process as a Kafkafesque absurdity.”

And, to quell any doubts about Senator Paul’s perfidy, the article’s author is careful to point out, “He was joined on this quest by… some disgruntled Democrats, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.” The ostensible motivation for the Senator’s asinine histrionics is the fear that passing a repeal bill similar to the one President Obama vetoed last year would create more problems than it would solve. Paul’s Senate website puts it thus: “We should repeal Obamacare, but partial repeal will only accelerate the current chaos and may eventually lead to calls for a taxpayer bailout of insurance companies.”

This alibi would be a lot easier to buy, if Senator Paul hadn’t voted in favor of just such a bill, H.R. 3762, in December of 2015. That bill was prevented from becoming law by a single vote — that of President Obama. If Senator Paul is true to his word, always a difficult thing to predict, his could be the one vote that kills repeal this year. Why would he be willing to vote for H.R. 3762 in late 2015 but unwilling to vote for a similar bill now? Well, he was up for re-election in the Senate and was also running for president. He couldn’t win in Kentucky or the GOP primaries having voted to preserve Obamacare. Also, he knew the bill would be vetoed.

In other words, this self-styled “maverick” was guided by precisely the sort of cynical political calculation he professes to abhor in establishment politicians. He voted for H.R. 3762, knowing full well it would never become law, just so he could tell the voters he was fighting the good fight against Obamacare. His presidential campaign crashed and burned, of course, but he won re-election to the Senate. And now that he has his posterior comfortably planted in a Senate seat for at least six more years, he has rediscovered his sacred honor. Grandstand Rand is once again prepared to impale the electorate, as well as the Republican Party, on his lofty principles.

It isn’t clear, however, that Speaker Ryan or the Senate leadership believe he has the courage of his alleged convictions. CNN reports:

One senior Republican congressional aide warned that the time for stunts was quickly running out. “There will come a time very soon where we’re going to have to have a proposal. And, whether that is the House proposal or the Senate proposal, we’re going to have a proposal and get 218 and 51.”

In other words, Grandstand Rand can pull all the theatrics he likes, but he’ll have to cast a vote in the end. If his vote kills repeal, he will quickly discover that, tired clichés notwithstanding, there is, indeed, such a thing as bad publicity.

David Catron
David Catron
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David Catron is a health care consultant and frequent contributor to The American Spectator. You can follow him on Twitter at @Catronicus.
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