Rand Paul defends Trump's use of executive order: He's not creating new law

Sen. Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulHouse bill set to reignite debate on warrantless surveillance Authorizing military force is necessary, but insufficient GOP feuds with outside group over analysis of tax framework MORE (R-Ky.) defended President Trump's use of an executive order on Thursday, after Republicans previously criticized former President Obama for overusing the tool to bypass Congress.

"We're creating something that is freedom. He's not creating a new government program," Paul told CNN's Jake Tapper.

"We've read the original law and we believe what the president did today is basically an interpretation of the original law, and doesn't create new territory," he continued. 

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Trump earlier in the day directed government agencies to begin to roll back parts of ObamaCare, after Republicans in Congress failed to pass legislation to repeal and replace Obama's signature health-care law. 

Trump’s order will allow agencies to expand the ability of small businesses and other groups to band together to buy health insurance through what are known as association health plans.

Paul said Trump was "legalizing the ability for individuals to join a group to get better purchasing power."

"There's no government expense to this, and under the First Amendment there is a clause that says we have the right to peaceably assemble. That has been taken over time to be the right of free association, and it's also been said by the Supreme Court to actually say that we can join together for economic purposes. So all we're doing is legalizing the ability for individuals to join a group to get better purchasing power. I think it's sort of a fundamentally American what we're advocating," he said. 

While the executive order does not make changes to ObamaCare itself, it directs agencies to roll out new regulations and guidance. 

Paul has been a longtime advocate of expanding association health plans. He has said they give people more choices for lower-cost coverage. He was present at the White House signing ceremony earlier in the day.

Trump presented Paul with a pen after the order was signed. 

However, Paul was also a vocal critic of Obama's executive orders, saying during a Fox News interview in 2013 that he was concerned the then-president was developing a "king complex." 

The senator said on Thursday that the difference is Trump is building upon a law already in place, instead of creating new law. 

"This is a law that was written in the 1970s that allows companies to buy insurance across state lines, and people who have a nexus, basically some sort of nexus related to their employment," Paul said.