Pence, not Trump, plans Kentucky healthcare pitch

Pence, not Trump, plans Kentucky healthcare pitch

Vice President Pence plans to travel to Louisville, Ky., on Saturday as the White House ramps up its sales pitch for the GOP proposal to repeal and replace ObamaCare.

Pence is expected to appear with Gov. Matt Bevin (R) in Louisville, the hometown of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellWe can't let Trump pack the court with radicals Judd Gregg: For Trump, reaching out would pay off Congressional GOP struggles for a win as recess looms MORE (R), his office said Thursday.

It’s also the biggest city in the home state of Sen. Rand PaulRand PaulJudd Gregg: For Trump, reaching out would pay off This week: ObamaCare repeal vote looms over Senate Week ahead: Uncertainty surrounds ObamaCare repeal vote MORE (R), a critic of the White House-backed plan to replace former President Obama’s healthcare law.  

President Trump was expected to make the trip himself, the Courier-Journal newspaper reported Wednesday. But Pence will go instead.

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The trip is another example of the White House’s hands-on approach to advancing the repeal and replace plan, called the American Health Care Act, which has run into a buzzsaw of opposition from outside groups and conservatives such as Paul.

Trump targeted Paul in a Tuesday night tweet, gently urging him to get on board.

“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!”

Pence has made the rounds on Capitol Hill, as well as talk radio and local television, to sell the House GOP-authored plan.

But Paul has balked at the House’s approach and announced that he plans to release his own “clean” repeal bill, which could make it difficult for Republican leaders to assemble the votes needed to pass the current measure.

The Kentucky senator said on CNN Tuesday he spoke with Trump this week and relayed his desire to separate repeal and replacement, since there are deep divisions among Republicans over the latter.

“I don’t feel isolated by this. I actually feel emboldened," Paul said in response to the president’s comments in a Wednesday interview with Politico.

Paul said he believes Trump is “open to negotiation and that they realize that we have the numbers to stop the Obamacare-lite bill.”

The White House is betting it can use the president’s popularity in Paul’s own backyard to win him over. The business mogul won nearly 63 percent of voters in Kentucky last year, while Paul garnered just over 57 percent support in his reelection race.

Trump is stressing to Republican lawmakers that voters could punish them if they fail to fulfill their campaign-trail promise to get rid of Obama’s healthcare law and replace it with something else.

But Paul, who doesn’t face reelection until 2022, and other Kentucky lawmakers could also face pressure from the left; the Bluegrass State is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid. 

Updated at 10:15 a.m.