President Donald Trump reportedly singled out Republican Sen. Rand Paul during a dinner with GOP senators on Tuesday night, criticising the Libertarian-leaning lawmaker for his opposition to the Senate’s Obamacare replacement bill.
After the bill was sunk by opposition from both the conservative and moderate wings of the Republican Party, Trump complained that Paul had gone out of his way to publicize his discontent with the bill, and derided the senator’s TV appearances as unnecessary grandstanding, according to a New York Times report. Paul was not at the dinner.
Trump reportedly said that while it’s one thing to vote no on the bill, it’s another thing to “go on all of the Sunday shows and complain about it,” according to the Times.
Paul responded on “Good Morning America” on Wednesday, defending his relationship with the president and holding firm on his rejection of the Better Care Reconciliation Act.
“I think the president and I have a good relationship — I’ve been one of his strongest defenders, I will continue to defend him against mainstream media attacks,” Paul said. “But on issues of substance like healthcare, he knows where I’m coming from… I was at the first Tea parties saying that Obamacare was a mistake and we should repeal it.”
The GOP bill fell apart Monday night when two more GOP senators — Jerry Moran of Kansas and Mike Lee of Utah — joined Paul in rejecting the proposal.
Paul has long supported a full repeal of Obamacare and advocates for repealing the law before negotiating legislation to replace it. Paul implied he had helped convince the president to change his mind on the issue after Trump tweeted on Monday that the Senate should repeal now and replace later.
“As @realDonaldTrump and I discussed last week. Clean repeal now!” Paul tweeted on Monday.
Paul emphasised during his Wednesday interview that he and the president agree that Republicans should abandon Obamacare.
“I agree with the president — Obamacare’s a disaster, but it’s the Democrats’ creation, and all the problems of its unravelling belong to Democrats,” Paul said, arguing that any Republican bill that doesn’t fully repeal Obamacare would leave the GOP with the blame for the healthcare law’s failure.
This isn’t the first time Paul has won Trump’s ire for his position on healthcare. In March, in the midst of the House’s negotiation of their replacement bill, the president called Paul out by name on Twitter after the senator criticised the House proposal as “Obamacare-lite.”
“I feel sure that my friend @RandPaul will come along with the new and great health care program because he knows Obamacare is a disaster!” Trump tweeted.
In response to reporters’ questions about his reaction to the president’s pressure, Paul said he felt “emboldened” by the criticism.
“I don’t feel isolated by this. I actually feel emboldened,” Paul told Politico, arguing that the tweet signalled that the White House was open to negotiation with proponents of a clean Obamacare repeal.
Paul and Trump began their relationship on rocky footing during the 2016 presidential primaries. After the first Republican debate in August 2015, Trump called Paul “truly weird” and criticised his performance.
“Truly weird Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky reminds me of a spoiled brat without a properly functioning brain,” Trump tweeted. “He was terrible at DEBATE!”
Paul struck back at Trump, calling him a “fake conservative.”
Watch Paul’s interview here: