Rand Paul opens door to backing healthcare bill on key hurdle
© Keren Carrion

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia GOP leader blocks resolution backing intelligence community on Russia Rand Paul blocks Sanders's Russia resolution, calls it 'crazy hatred' against Trump MORE (R-Ky.) is opening the door to helping GOP leadership get a healthcare bill over a key procedural hurdle.

The Kentucky Republican said on Thursday that he would support the motion to proceed to the House-passed healthcare bill, which is being used as a vehicle for any action, if he could get a deal on amendments.

"If they want my vote, they have to at least agree that we're going to at least have a vote on clean repeal," Paul told reporters.

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The Kentucky Republican floated that Senate leadership should guarantee votes on some of the caucus's most prominent healthcare proposals — including repeal-only, repeal-and-replace and a bill created by Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill's Morning Report — Russia furor grips Washington Overnight Health Care: Novartis pulls back on drug price hikes | House Dems launch Medicare for All caucus | Trump officials pushing ahead on Medicaid work requirements Senate panel to vote next week on banning 'gag clauses' in pharmacy contracts MORE (R-Maine) — as a way to get him on board.

"I think they're pretty equal in support. Let's do a random selection. Let's have three or four of them, put them in random order, the first day, equal billing. I think that's a compromise. I'm willing to get on the bill," he said.

Senators are expected to hold a procedural vote on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPelosi: 'Thug' Putin not welcome in Congress GOP to White House: End summit mystery Sunk judicial pick spills over into Supreme Court fight MORE (R-Ky.) will need the support of at least 50 GOP senators to take up the House bill and let senators offer amendments, including clean repeal, the Better Care Reconciliation Act or other proposals.

Three GOP senators have said they would not take up the bill if it's to proceed to a repeal-only proposal. Paul and GOP Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) do not support the Senate GOP repeal-and-replace plan.

Paul is widely viewed as one of the most entrenched "no" votes within the GOP caucus on healthcare. If leadership is able to win him over, it could bolster their chances to at least debate — if not ultimately pass — healthcare legislation.

McConnell's math is even narrower with Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainThe Memo: Summit fallout hits White House Graham: Biggest problem is Trump ‘believes meddling equals collusion’ Obama, Bush veterans dismiss Trump-Putin interpreter subpoena MORE (R-Ariz.), who announced on Wednesday night that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer, out of Washington. It's unclear when he will return.

With McCain absent and all other 99 senators voting, McConnell can only afford to lose one GOP senator.

Paul stressed that he was not yet on board with voting "yes" on the initial hurdle, adding that there has been "resistance" to his idea.

If the Senate is able to take up the House bill any senator will be able to offer an amendment under an hours-long "vote-a-rama," but Paul said he wanted a guarantee his amendment wouldn't get buried in a "four in the morning" vote.

"Up front we have a vote on clean repeal, and maybe BRCA, and maybe Collins-Cassidy. I think the major proposals could be put at the very front. We debate them on the first day," he said.

GOP leadership signaled that they might not know what the ultimate outcome will be, repeal-only or repeal-and-replace, until after they get on the House bill.

"Asking what the first amendment is going to be actually misses the point, because anybody that's got a better idea can offer that and nobody can stop them," said Sen. John CornynJohn CornynThe Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Senate GOP attempts to wave Trump off second Putin summit Senators push to clear backlog in testing rape kits MORE (R-Texas).