After golf with Trump, Paul says 'very optimistic' about ObamaCare repeal

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, a top conservative critic of House Republicans’ failed plan to replace ObamaCare, concluded his golf outing Sunday with President Trump by saying party members are “getting closer” on a compromise repeal plan and that he remains “very optimistic.”

The president’s invitation for Paul to play at Trump National Golf Club is a sign that he is trying again to negotiate with congressional conservatives who failed to back the originial ObamaCare overhaul plan, after weeks of attacking them.

“We had a great day with the president,” Paul said after playing with Trump and White House Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney at the northern Virgina club. “We did talk about some health care reform. I think the sides are getting closer and closer together. And I remain very optimistic that we will get an ObamaCare repeal.”

Paul, an eye doctor and Tea Party favorite, has his own ObamaCare replacement plan, which he argues goes further than the Republican House leadership plan to fully repeal and replace the 2010 health care law, under which consumers are facing rising costs and fewer policy options.

White House official Stephanie Grisham said earlier Sunday that the threesome would discussing several issues at the club but that health care would be “a big topic.”

Mulvaney is a founding member of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus, which led the opposition to the Republican overhaul plan that failed last month in the GOP-controlled House.

Trump has been critical of the Freedom Caucus and the majority of its roughly 35 members who were influential in stopping a vote on House overhaul plan.

Trump warned caucus Chairman Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., in a closed-door Capitol Hill meeting about not supporting the overhaul plan, saying, “Oh Mark, I'm coming after you.”

And in just the past few days, the president and the White House have singled out the Freedom Caucus and specific members for their non-support -- including Michigan GOP Rep. Justin Amash and South Carolina GOP Rep. Mark Sanford, who is sponsoring the House version of Paul’s overhaul plan.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted: “The Freedom Caucus will hurt the entire Republican agenda if they don't get on the team, & fast. We must fight them, & Dems, in 2018!”

Also that day, The Post and Courier newspaper in South Carolina reported that Trump dared Sanford to vote against the overhaul bill.

Sanford said that Mulvaney told him: "The president asked me to look you square in the eyes and to say that he hoped that you voted ‘no’ on this bill so he could run (a primary challenger) against you in 2018."

On Saturday, White House social media Director Dan Scavino Jr. tweeted: “Donald Trump is bringing auto plants & jobs back to Michigan. @justinamash is a big liability. #TrumpTrain, defeat him in primary.”

Trump in recent days has also expressed a desire to revisit repealing and replacing ObamaCare, one of his major campaign promises.

“Talks on Repealing and Replacing ObamaCare are, and have been, going on, and will continue until such time as a deal is hopefully struck,” he tweeted Sunday before the golf outing.

Trump invited Meadows and Texas GOP Sen. Mike Lee, another influential Capitol Hill conservative, to his Florida resort Mar-a-Lago the weekend before the scrapped House vote in an effort to win their support.