Paul, a self-professed libertarian, has been loudly opposing the stabilization funding in the Republican bill for weeks. He told me a month ago he would oppose a bill with that kind of money directed to health insurers.
"If you told me I couldn't repeal everything and some of Obamacare would remain, I would vote for that as an imperfect bill," he said then. "But I'm not voting for one that has new Republican entitlement programs — like that stabilization fund they're talking about is a Republican entitlement program for a billion-dollar insurance industry."
He hasn't softened at all on that position, even though most Republicans believe stabilization funding is necessary to keep the Obamacare markets functioning for a few years before they transition to a new health care system.
There have been no indications that the money will be removed in the revised bill.
"I personally believe that all of the pork that's being added to the bill … is not a conservative notion," Paul told reporters on the conference call, repeatedly referring to the stabilization money as an "insurance bailout superfund."
Paul's fixation on the insurance funding separates him from Cruz and Lee, the conservatives who he is otherwise allied with. The other two are conditioning their support on a Cruz proposal that would allow health insurers to sell non-Obamacare insurance as long as they also sold plans that complied with the health care law. The policy is currently being reviewed by the Congressional Budget Office and is expected to be included in one of the two versions of the revised Senate bill released Thursday.
But Paul actually said Wednesday that the Cruz amendment could make his problems with the Senate bill worse. The policy could drive up costs for people in the Obamacare markets, as Vox's Sarah Kliff detailed, which the federal government would then have to step in and subsidize to prevent a death spiral.
"The impressions and the rumors that we're hearing is that's gonna mean a lot more money in insurance bailout fund and ultimately also mean some sort of price controls," Paul said on the conference call, adding that was "foreign to any notion of capitalism."
Paul's solution, if next week's vote fails, is to scrap any replacement provisions and focus on the parts of Obamacare that Republicans can agree to repeal. Even Collins, for example, has said some taxes on the health care industry should be scrapped because they drive up the cost of health insurance.
"I guarantee that, on repeal, Susan Collins and I have common ground," Paul said.
Then, the other Senate Republicans could work with Democrats on a different bill with other policies, like stabilization funding, that Paul opposes. The senator left it to his GOP colleagues to pass "big government spending priorities" with Democratic votes.
"Conservatives won't come onboard, or at least this conservative won't, if the bill includes an insurance bailout superfund," Paul said on his conference call.
That promise will be put to the test soon.