Rand Paul appeared on CNN Thursday afternoon to respond to criticism from President Trump for not supporting the Graham-Cassidy health care bill that he claims will end Obamacare.
"Rand Paul is a friend of mine but he is such a negative force when it comes to fixing healthcare. Graham-Cassidy Bill is GREAT! Ends Ocare!" Trump tweeted Wednesday.
"Here's the thing. My proposal I'm working with on the president will cost zero dollars. The Cassidy/Graham bill is going to spend a trillion dollars. It keeps the Obamacare spending but just reshuffles who gets it. That is not what I promised voters. I promised repeal. I didn't promise I would keep most of it and reshuffle who gets the proceeds," Paul responded on Wolf Blitzer's afternoon CNN program.
Transcript below Trump tweet.
Rand Paul is a friend of mine but he is such a negative force when it comes to fixing healthcare. Graham-Cassidy Bill is GREAT! Ends Ocare!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 20, 2017
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: At the same time, there's this from the president of the United States. He's going after Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul, who is on the record against the new effort by Senate Republicans to repeal Obamacare. So today, President Trump went on the record against Senator Paul tweeting this, "Rand Paul is a friend of mine, but he is such a negative force when it comes to fixing health care. Graham/Cassidy bill is great. Ends Obamacare."
Senator Rand Paul joins us now live from Capitol Hill.
So let me get your response, Senator, to what the criticism you're receiving from president.
SEN. RAND PAUL, (R), KENTUCKY: You know I still think I'm a very positive force, and actually positively working with the president on different ideas. The idea I've been working with the president for about six months on is much better than Graham/Cassidy. That would be allowing people to buy across state lines, insurance through a group. If you're a carpenter or plumber, you get to join a big association, and through that association get cheaper insurance, and get some of the protects people want from their insurance. I continue to work with the president on that.
I'm just not with him on Graham/Cassidy because Graham/Cassidy keeps most of the Obamacare spending and it sort of reshuffles it. So instead of Obamacare funding going to California, it gets reshuffled to Republican states. And so I see it really more as sort of petty partisanship. Hey, let's reshuffle the deck and give the money to the Republican states but let's keep the Obamacare spending. My concern is the debt. We have a $700 billion debt. How are we going to pay for all this?
BLITZER: But as you know, there's a deadline, September 30th. After September 30th, under the complex rules of the U.S. Senate, you can't just get anything passed with 50 votes, you need 60 votes. In other words, you'll need Democrats, as the 52-48 Republican majority in the U.S. Senate. And on some of the other specific legislation that you want like being able to buy health insurance across state lines, you definitely need 60 votes for that. Do you have -- is it realistic at all to think you will be able to achieve what you're calling for?
PAUL: The interesting thing is we've been working with the Trump administration on this for six months now. We think they can do it through presidential pressure, interpretation of existing law. There was a law based in the 1970s that allows groups to form across state lines. Many corporation do this. This is the one area of the insurance market where premiums have been really flat. We think the administration is going to, in the next week or two, issue a ruling saying individuals are going to be able to buy across state lines. We think they can do it without a newt bill or legislation from Congress.
Here's the thing. My proposal I'm working with on the president will cost zero dollars. The Cassidy/Graham bill is going to spend a trillion dollars. It keeps the Obamacare spending but just reshuffles who gets it. That is not what I promised voters. I promised repeal. I didn't promise I would keep most of it and reshuffle who gets the proceeds.
BLITZER: What I hear you saying, Senator, is if this legislation doesn't pass, the president will begin using executive orders, executive decisions to change the current Obamacare law. Is that what you're suggesting.
PAUL: Not really. It's more complicated than that. We don't think it has anything to with the Obamacare law. The law did not prevent from buying across state lines and forming associations. It actually is a 1974 law, an ARISA law. We think that the law has been misinterpreted and could be reinterpreted by the Trump administration to allow many people -- maybe you join a credit union, maybe you join the Restaurant Association, and maybe people who work in the fast-food industry, a lot of whom don't have insurance now, could get it by buying it through one of these co-ops because they could get inexpensive insurance.
But my point is, I'm offering freedom of choice. Cassidy and Graham are offering just a big-government variation of Obamacare that sticks it to the Democrat states and takes the money and gives it to Republican states but really keeps most of the Obamacare spending. And that's not something I'm for.
BLITZER: Is there any wiggle room at all in this legislation, in this Graham/Cassidy bill? Are there any changes that potentially that could make between now and next week that would result in a yea vote from you?
PAUL: There are several things in it I would agree to. If they take the things good in it, we could keep expansion of the health savings account. Getting rid of mandate taxes and penalties and Medicaid reform, I'm for all three of those. I'm not for the spending proposal, not for saying, hey, let's keep a trillion dollars-worth of the Obamacare spending package. I'm not for the spending. That's my main objection to the bill. If they want to make it less about spending and more about repealing, I'm for repeal.
BLITZER: Paul Ryan says whatever the Senate passes, the House will pass next week without change and send it to the president for his signature. What's your message to the speaker of the House, Paul Ryan?
PAUL: The speaker's been wrong many times before on counting votes. I would have him ask everybody in California, every Republican, there are 14 Republican Congressmen, are they happy with the fact that the new formula will take $27 billion from California? Look, there's a lot of Republican Congressmen in New York and California, about 25 of them. They're in very competitive districts. Are they willing to go home and say I just voted for a bill that will take billions of dollars from California and New York and give it to Mississippi? It's a formula fight. It's a food fight over money. We're going to reshuffle the deck but it is not a principled repeal of Obamacare.
BLITZER: But you understand by your opposing Graham/Cassidy, and maybe let's say two other Republicans also oppose it, Obamacare stays the law of the land. That's what is angering the president right now, in effect, you're supporting Obamacare. Very quickly, your response.
PAUL: I would say I think voters are smart. The Republicans in my state know that nobody's been a louder voice for repealing this, and they know that seven Republicans, who said they would repeal, voted for repeal in 2015, and then changed their mind. So when I go home I don't expect people will look for me, I think they'll look at the seven Senators who weren't from Kentucky, who were Republicans, promised to repeal, voted to repeal and then switched their minds. If anybody wants to blame anybody, there's a lot of blame to go around there.