- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 9, 2017

President Trump’s attempt to cyber-cajole Sen. Rand Paul into supporting the House GOP’s health plan appears to have only emboldened the Kentucky Republican, who on Thursday said he reintroduced his “clean repeal” of Obamacare.

Mr. Paul is among vocal conservatives who say the first piece of a long-awaited Republican proposal to scrap Obamacare and move toward market-oriented reforms falls woefully short.

House leaders are pushing the plan through key committees this week, but the GOP remains split between conservatives who are worried the plan creates a new entitlement and centrists who worry it may go too far in unwinding Obamacare a vast expansion of Medicaid coverage for the poor.

Mr. Trump, who has endorsed the House GOP plan but says he’s open to changes, used Twitter this week to pressure Mr. Paul into supporting the plan, but his former presidential primary foe says he has a better idea — revive a 2015 repeal effort that received widespread support from Republicans before President Obama vetoed it.

“The Republican Party is unified on Obamacare repeal,” Mr. Paul. “We can honor our promise right away by passing the same language we acted on in the last Congress. Then, we can have a separate vote on replacement legislation that will deliver lower costs, better care, and greater access to the American people.”

Rep. Jim Jordan, Ohio Republican, filed companion legislation in the House.

Members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of roughly 30 GOP members that frequently spars with party leadership, have joined Mr. Paul and Republican Sens. Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas in saying the prior Obamacare bill offers their best shot at keeping their campaign promises of repeal.

They particularly don’t like a part of the GOP plan that offers refundable, age-based tax credits to help people who purchase insurance on their own, saying Republicans should rely on free-market levers instead of replacing Obamacare’s “entitlement” with one of their own.

But centrist Senate Republicans and hospital and doctors’ groups say the plan might go too far in cutting government assistance for coverage, leaving the GOP in a bit of a pickle, although House leaders are holding firm.

“If you want to see Obamacare replaced, this is the best opportunity to do it,” Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, California Republican, told the Fox and Friends program on Thursday. “If you want to see replacement that lowers the premiums and actually gives greater quality of care, this is the only option we have going forward.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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