Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is girding himself for a lonely fight against a budget fellow Republicans are preparing to pass as a vehicle for repealing the Affordable Care Act.
By passing a new budget and tying it to Obamacare, Republicans can repeal the controversial health law with a simple majority in the Senate rather than a filibuster-proof 60 votes. Paul told reporters on a conference call Thursday that he shares that goal but not at the expense of a spending blueprint that envisions adding another nearly $10 trillion to the national debt over 10 years.
“I guess, where is it written that we have to put forward a crappy budget?”
If forced to choose between solving the debt crisis and eliminating Obamacare, Paul said, he’d prioritize debt reduction.
“I have no sympathy for not putting forward a good budget,” he said. “There’s no reason you can’t have a good budget and use it as vehicle to repeal Obamacare, as well. I guess, where is it written that we have to put forward a crappy budget?”
Paul said he will offer an amendment on the Senate floor that would keep the Obamacare repeal language but freeze all spending through 2018. He said it would balance in about five years. He said he expects to be the only Republican senator to vote against his party’s budget, which he called embarrassing.
“This is, to me, upsetting that the first thing we produce is a budget document that will add $9.7 trillion to the debt over 10 years and never balances,” he said. “The spending and the revenue lines never cross. And that’s just not something I can support.”
Paul rejected the notion that the budget is no big deal. He noted that Republicans can pass a budget on a party-line vote. With no need to negotiate with Democrats, he said, it should be a statement of the party’s principles.
“This is an important thing to do, and I think we need to be on record as at least part of the party being present is for balanced budget,” he said.
Paul also rejected the strategy of congressional leaders to repeal Obamacare but delay implementation for two or more years while Congress comes up with a replacement. Paul said both should be done simultaneously, adding that he has consulted with the House Freedom Caucus and plans to introduce a replacement bill next week.
“I think there’s a growing consensus that we should have a replacement bill at the same as repeal,” he said.
Paul has been one of the leading fiscal hawks in Congress since his first election to the Senate in 2010. He said he watched in horror as the debt roughly doubled under President George W. Bush and roughly doubled again under President Obama.
Paul’s fiscal conservatism potentially places him on a collision course with President-Elect Donald Trump, who vowed during the campaign not to touch Social Security or Medicare. But Paul said the giant entitlement programs simply are unsustainable.
“People are living longer and they had less kids,” he said. “It’s an absolute fact that you have to fix Social Security and Medicare … The next generation will have to gradually wait a little longer to get these entitlement programs.”
Paul said he does not think Trump’s views on the issue necessarily are set in stone. And he said he is encouraged by the president-elect’s Cabinet nominees.
“There’s an absence, perhaps, there [of presidential leadership]. But there’s also an absence of congressional leadership for entitlement reform,” he said. “But somebody has to be for it.”