Friday night, Senator Rand Paul let the world know that he’d gotten a phone call from President-elect Donald Trump wherein the mogul expressed agreement with Paul’s argument that Obamacare should be repealed and replaced in a single action. Most people yawned or missed the story entirely, though my colleague Jonathan Chait observed on Twitter that if Paul was telling the truth, the whole repeal-and-delay strategy for Obamacare might soon be dead.
With Trump going out of his way to bless the Kentucky senator’s approach, Paul’s week-long campaign to hold a vote on replacing Obamacare alongside a simultaneous repeal measure has seemingly upended the GOP’s long-sought plans for a cathartic and immediate vote to gut the health care law.
So in addition to the thunder and lightning Trump is prone to unleash via Twitter at any time of day or night, is he also going to go old-school by phoning up Republican members of Congress to communicate his policy views on, well, the most important topic in contemporary politics? And if so, will he bypass the congressional GOP pecking order as he appears to have just done by letting Rand Paul, of all people, “upend” the leadership’s plans?
It’s hard to say. On the immediate subject at hand, Trump’s been trying to tell congressional Republicans to be careful about inheriting a whirlwind by repealing Obamacare before a replacement is in place. Rand Paul seems to think a replacement is real easy, perhaps because what most people think of as “losing your health insurance” he regards as “freedom.” So it’s possible they are, as Paul put it, in “total agreement” in opposing “repeal and delay” while being far apart on the matter of how quickly the simultaneous action occurs.
If that’s the case, it won’t necessarily screw up this week’s Senate votes on a budget resolution that authorizes the Obamacare repeal, though some GOP senators might balk at voting to move right along with a game plan nobody is in a position to write. But it does suggest that the old “repeal and delay” plan, with the only disagreement being over how long to delay, is in deep trouble. It could mean “delay the repeal” is the only real consensus going forward.
Now, it’s entirely possible Trump’s call to Paul wasn’t exactly as Paul reported it, or that Trump was just telling the Kentuckian what he wanted to hear, with absolutely no intention of “upending” everyone else’s plans. But how are we supposed to know? At least with a Twitter pronunciamento Trump is uttering words we can all read and interpret and debate. But then again, as soon-to-be presidential counselor Kellyanne Conway says, this is an administration that thinks it unfair to judge Trump by “what comes out of his mouth.” So we’ll all just have to wait and see. Too bad if that affects your health insurance — I mean, your freedom.