Rand Paul, Mike Lee Rip into Health Care Bill, Which Is Now Expected Thursday

"They've gotten kind of weak-kneed," the Kentucky senator says of his GOP colleagues. If he, Mike Lee, and one other senator defect, the bill is dead.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) announced this afternoon that a "discussion draft" of the rushed, flawed, and secretive Senate version of the American Health Care Act will be unveiled Thursday, in advance of a hoped-for vote a week hence, on June 29. "Oh they'll have plenty of time" [to read the bill], McConnell said. "This will be about as transparent as it can be." Uh-huh.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), long considered the most likely Republican "no" vote, did not sound enthused about the legislation today. While stressing that he'll decide only after reading the bill, Paul reiterated in remarks recorded by Bloomberg News political reporter Sahil Kapur that he's "not interested in voting for anything that's a new entitlement program," and that it might be better to "start over." More from Paul:

The House bill has 90 percent of the subsidies of Obamacare….If this gets any more subsidies in it, it may well be equal to what we have in Obamacare. So it really wouldn't be repeal. […]

I think they've forgotten all the rallies where they said they were going to repeal it. I mean, we had thousands of people standing up and cheering us on saying they were going to repeal it. And now they've gotten kind of weak-kneed and I think they want to keep it. But they're getting hit from both sides. Conservatives who are in the know are going to know that this isn't repeal. And no Democrat likes it because they think it's going to go too far. So I think you're going to wind up with what you had in the House bill—about 20 percent of the public's going to think it's a good idea.

The other most likely "no" vote has always been Paul's pal Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), who, while also keeping his vote open, said in a Facebook video today that:

Even though I've been a member of this working group among Senate Republicans assigned to help narrow some of the focus of this, I haven't seen the bill….And it has become increasingly apparent in the last few days that even though we thought we were going to be in charge of writing a bill within this working group, it's not being written by us, it's apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate….We should have been able to see it weeks ago if we were going to voting on it next week.

But even if Lee and Paul revolt, as many have been predicting, the unpopular bill still needs one more Republican hand on the steely knife to kill the beast. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), while mocking Democratic complaints about process, said Tuesday the legislation still has "got a long way to go." Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), a key moderate, said, "I would like a more open process, that's for sure," and: "I cannot say what I would vote for if I haven't seen it….That's where a real problem is, because nobody — I shouldn't say that." And Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) quipped that, "I'm sure the Russians have been able to hack in and gotten most of it."

Peter Suderman earlier today floated various theories for Republicans' odd AHCA behavior.