By LINDSEY McPHERSON and BRIDGET BOWMANCQ Roll Call
The House Freedom Caucus will meet with Sen. Rand Paul Thursday morning at the Kentucky Republican’s request to discuss his concerns about the fiscal 2017 budget resolution Republicans are using to set up an expedited process for repealing the 2010 health care law.
“We are meeting with Senator Rand Paul tomorrow to discuss his ideas on replacing the Affordable care Act and the timing of repeal and replacement,” Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told Roll Call. “As a health care provider and as a senator he brings a unique perspective.”
Paul was the lone Republican senator to vote against the motion to proceed to the budget resolution, arguing that the measure increases the national debt. He said he expects to be the only Republican to vote against adoption.
“I’m surprised there aren’t a few conservatives who will say, ‘No.’” Paul told reporters Wednesday. “I think there are a few conservatives in the House and I’m going to meet with some of their leaders tomorrow morning to see if we can get enough rallied together in the House to stop this thing.”
Paul said fellow conservatives may have been convinced that current resolution “doesn’t count,” since lawmakers intend to take up another budget resolution in the next few months. But Paul doubted the next resolution covering fiscal 2018 would address the debt.
“Do I think people who are not serious now are going to be serious in there months? No. It will be the same game and charade,” Paul said.
Meadows said House conservatives see the fiscal 2017 budget resolution more as a procedural tool “that is not backed up by real policy to implement all of it, so it doesn’t have the financial impact.” However, he noted they respect Paul and want to listen to his views on the topic.
“We don’t want to send the wrong message that we’re not concerned about budget and financial obligations,” Meadows said.
Freedom Caucus member Trent Franks of Arizona said he’s willing to listen to Paul’s concerns but suggested that the conservatives are not eager to block the budget resolution given the need to use the expedited reconciliation process to strike the health law.
“Some of us don’t even know what the budget numbers are. I’m among them,” Franks said. “And secondarily, the need for reconciliation because of the Senate’s inability to do anything without reconciliation is going to have to play a role in the final decisions we make here. It’s an added conundrum.”
Paul said that although he would vote against the budget resolution, “in all likelihood” he would vote for resulting legislation that would repeal portions of the health law. But he argued that Republicans should also present replacement plan along with any repeal legislation.
“I am working very hard in my committee, in my caucus, to say that we should simultaneously vote on replacement,” Paul said. “I think if you do repeal alone, the disaster continues to unfold.”
House Republicans, including Freedom Caucus members, appear mostly on board with deferring replacement but have varied opinions about how long a transitional period should last. Meadows has argued that a new plan should be enacted as soon as possible but definitely before the end of the 115th Congress.