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The statesmanship of Rand Paul

The statesmanship of Rand Paul

In the ongoing health care debate, Senator Rand Paul, R-Ky., has emerged as the most consistent champion of and advocate for real repeal of Obamacare. One of the select few conservatives in the U.S. Senate pushing against the current GOP health care plan, Sen. Paul has been leading the repeal fight for months, showing true statesmanship.

"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 told Neil Cavuto in May. "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."

Senator Paul has been not only the Senate’s loudest voice for replacing Obamacare, but also its most consistent. What he told Cavuto in May, he repeated this past week as Republicans discovered that they cannot muster the votes to pass a tepid, watered-down Medicaid reform package masquerading as Obamacare repeal.

The fundamental flaw in the Senate Obamacare bill is the Obamacare regulations and insurance plan mandates that are preserved, which will cause premiums to continue to rise. As Sen. Paul correctly points out, Republicans will get stuck with the blame for failing to fix the premium problem.

“I think this thing still could be done, but we have to keep our promise to the Republican voters as well as all voters that we were going to repeal the disaster that is Obamacare. But, in order to get rid of the high prices of Obamacare, you have to repeal the regulations. And if we tinker around the edge with one or two regulations, the prices won’t come down and guess who they’re gonna blame? The Republicans. So we gotta fix it, we gotta really repeal it.”

In Sen. Paul’s approach to health insurance reform, he has demonstrated the qualities of true statesmanship. The statesman’s chief virtue is prudence – the knowledge of what is the right thing to do and when it is best to do it. The right thing to do is to fully repeal Obamacare, but the divided Republican conference that cannot agree on this course of action requires our members of Congress to find a place for compromise.

This does not suggest, as some have argued, that Republicans should pass “whatever compromise” will garner 50 votes. Any compromise that sustains these intrinsic problems of Obamacare and fails to lower premiums will incur the wrath of the electorate just as assuredly as failing to pass anything at all will.

In no uncertain terms, if the current Obamacare replacement plan becomes law, the Republican party will own every premium increase, every insurance company withdrawal in the market death spiral, every cancelled insurance plan, and every insolvent state budget wherever Medicaid is expanded in the U.S. Passing this bill – which currently polls only 12 percent support from the electorate – would simply be stupid.

Senator Paul has the presence of mind to grasp this. His pointed criticisms of the bill stand in contrast to blind reassurances from some Republicans that the GOP plan will lower insurance premiums without repealing so-called “patient protection” regulations – an impossibility. Put simply, Senator Paul is telling the truth about the GOP bill when he claims it does not go far enough to fix the insurance markets Obamacare ruined and that Republicans will get the blame if they phone in their “fix.”

"The half of Republicans that hate it are conservatives like myself who went to rally after rally after rally saying 'We're going to repeal ObamaCare,' and now we're not repealing it, we're keeping it," Paul reiterated in an interview with Fox News Wednesday in which he harshly criticized his moderate colleagues.

"These weak-kneed Republicans up here who are saying, 'Oh, we got to spend more money and we got to keep Medicaid forever, the expansion,' they need to get over themselves."

Senator Paul is not being polemic, but prudent. The opposition to real repeal by the moderates is harmful both to the country and to the GOP politically. Paul had the prescience to see that the more moderate members of the GOP conference would refuse to repeal Obamacare wholesale and that the Democrats would attack Republicans on grounds that they were cutting Medicaid spending while lowering taxes on the rich.

As such, while House Republicans were still drawing up the American Health Care Act, Senator Paul introduced his own plan to repeal Obamacare – one that left Medicaid expansion and the Obamacare taxes untouched while focusing on repealing regulations and expanding consumer options with health savings accounts. This is exactly the compromise position advocated by CR’s Daniel Horowitz. Paul’s plan was savaged at the time, yet if Republicans had adopted it, they would have neutralized the Democratic talking points on Medicaid and taxes while enacting real reforms in the private insurance market that would demonstrate how health care costs can be brought down – making a roll-back of Medicaid expansion politically feasible, as people on the program would then be able to afford private insurance on the free market.

Paul was the first Republican on the scene ready with a repeal bill once it became clear GOP leadership would not take up the 2015 repeal bill.

What distinguishes Senator Paul is that his objections have been accompanied by ideas that would improve the legislation. He has not refused to compromise, nor is he insisting on a libertarian purity test for health care reform. He is attempting to guide his colleagues toward passing a bill that will actually help people and save the party from political disaster.

Sen. Paul believes his efforts in Congress will ultimately lead to a bill that actually repeals Obamacare, at least partially.

“I think it’s important that some of us stand firm now,” Paul said earlier this week. “Now is the time to change the bill and I think by my steadfastness in being for repeal, I think I can get this bill to look more like repeal before it goes through.”

Whatever health care outcome is adopted by the Republicans in Congress and ultimately becomes law, conservatives will have Senator Paul, a true American statesman, to thank for being a consistent proponent of liberty and responsible governance in the halls of Congress.

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