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Rand Paul says Trump backs him, not GOP leaders, on health care

Republican leaders are ready to move forward with "repeal and delay." Donald Trump told one GOP senator he disagrees.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) emerges from a closed-door weekly policy meeting with Senate Republicans, at the U.S. Capitol, May 10, 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty)
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) emerges from a closed-door weekly policy meeting with Senate Republicans, at the U.S. Capitol, May 10, 2016, in Washington, D.C.
At least for now, congressional Republican leaders have a strategy in mind on health care: "repeal and delay." As we discussed last week, the idea, roughly speaking, involves GOP lawmakers using their majority status to quickly pass legislation that repeals the Affordable Care Act, while also leaving the law -- or at least most of it -- intact for years while Republicans work on their alternative.But to pass "repeal and delay," GOP leaders will need near-unanimity from Republicans in the House and Senate, and they're not yet close. In fact, as many as six GOP senators -- more than enough to derail the gambit -- have publicly questioned the strategy, instead pushing for an approach in which Republicans repeal "Obamacare" and approve its replacement simultaneously.Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is among the most enthusiastic proponents of "repeal and replace" -- instead of "repeal and delay and eventually think of something to maybe replace it with" -- and as Politico noted, the Kentucky Republican says Donald Trump has privately endorsed Paul's approach.

Sen. Rand Paul on Friday said President-elect Donald Trump "fully supports" his plan to simultaneously repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act."I just spoke to [Trump] and he fully supports my plan to replace Obamacare the same day we repeal it," the Kentucky senator tweeted.

I don't doubt that Paul and Trump had this conversation. What's more, I have no reason to believe the senator is in any way exaggerating what the president-elect told him. It's very likely the Kentucky Republican sketched out his preferred strategy and Trump offered his spirited support, leaving Paul feeling quite encouraged.The problem, however, is that Trump has no idea what he's talking about.To the consternation of nearly everyone he's worked with since launching his campaign, Trump has a nasty habit of telling the person he's speaking to at the time exactly what they want to hear. To understand the president-elect's position on a given issue, one need only ask, "With whom did he last speak?"That's partly the result of a president-elect who doesn't much care for public policy, and has even less interest in substantive details. It's not that Trump was lying to Paul, because he probably believed, sincerely, that what the senator was saying made sense.But will Trump actually follow through, telling the Republican leadership in both chambers that they're wrong and Rand Paul is right? Anything's possible, but it's easier to imagine the president-elect seeing Paul's tweet and saying, "I said what now?"Postscript: There's nothing to suggest Republicans will be swayed by polling, but the latest data from the Kaiser Family Foundation showed that only one in five Americans agree with the GOP's "repeal and delay" plan. In other words, even most Republican voters have no use for the current plan as sketched out by their own party's leaders.House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and others will swear up and down that the "American people" stand with the congressional GOP in their crusade against the Affordable Care Act. The evidence to the contrary is hard to miss.