Lincoln Day Dinner: Sen. Paul updates GOP on healthcare reform efforts
By SYLVIA HORLANDER
NC GAZETTE / WBRT RADIO
Friday, April 21, 2017 — Former presidential candidate U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, came to town Thursday night for Nelson County’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner. Sen. Paul delivered the keynote speech to a room full of Republicans at BJ’s Steakhouse.
The high-profile senator said he is proud to support his political beliefs, even if it means going against leaders in his party — including Sen. Mitch McConnell and President Donald Trump.
A recent example of Paul’s independence is his stance on the recently proposed American Health Care Act, which was designed to replace former President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
The legislation was withdrawn after it became clear it did not have sufficient support from conservative House Republicans to pass.
Paul wouldn’t say whether or not the failure of The American Health Care Act was a setback to the President’s agenda, even though he and other conservatives had criticized the legislation and dubbed it “Obamacare Light.”
One of the challenges of healthcare reform is creating a system that can provide insurance coverage that is affordable both to consumers and to the federal government.
Paul said more competition is needed, adding that competition in the marketplace tends to bring prices down.
“For decades, prices have been rising more rapidly in health care rather than other markets,” he said. Paul also supports allowing individual consumers who buy their own insurance to join buying groups to lower the cost of insurance premiums.
Paul said work continues behind the scenes on healthcare reform. During the Obama administration, the Senate voted 60 times to get rid of Obamacare. He advocates complete repeal of the Affordable Care Act, though some Republicans now want to keep part of it.
Paul’s differences with the president’s plans for reform go beyond just healthcare. He and Trump disagree on the President’s use of military force in Syria and Afghanistan. Paul calls Trump’s actions unconstitutional and hopes the war won’t accelerate.
Whether you laugh, cringe, or agree with President Trump’s use of Twitter, Paul thinks the media is focusing too much on the President’s tweets and losing its focus with what’s happening in Congress. According to Paul, the legislature is very focused, specifically on repealing Obamacare and reducing tax rates.
Even though Paul and the president haven’t agreed on everything politically, Paul thinks the president has gotten some things right. Paul is very pleased so far with Trump and believes he has done a good job in the first 100 days with deregulation. Paul said he likes Trump’s appointment of recently confirmed Justice Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, and believes Trump’s cabinet will be one of the most conservative in recent decades.
The state’s junior senator is well known for his views of limited government, privacy reform, and less intervention in foreign policy. When asked about the possibility of another run for president, Paul didn’t commit to an answer. He described a presidential run as a possibility that’s “a long way off,” and a decision on the matter is unlikely in the near future.
The annual dinner also attracted several elected officials from the local and state level.
U.S. Rep. Brett Guthrie spoke briefly, as did state Ag Commissioner Ryan Quarles and State Auditor Mike Harmon. The county’s new state representative, Chad McCoy was in attendance, along with 4th District magistrate Jeff Lear. Sen. Mitch McConnell and state Treasurer Allison Ball sent written greetings to the dinner guests.
Special thanks to Robert Augustine, Nelson County Republican Party chairman and a field representative for Sen. Paul. Additional thanks to Kelsey Cooper, Sen. Paul’s communications director, for scheduling my interview.