Republican Sen. Rand Paul split with senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to vote for a healthcare bill Tuesday night that will add about half a trillion dollars to the national debt over the next several decades.
Paul sided with the overwhelming majority of senators and representatives who voted for the bill, in a decision almost certain to come up in the primary race, where he is currently joined by Cruz and Rubio.
The “doc-fix” bill solves a recurring problem in the way Medicare payments are made to doctors, extends a children’s health insurance program, and requires higher-income seniors to pay higher premiums, and is hailed by supporters as a rare example of meaningful compromise. (RELATED: McConnell’s Priorities: Balance Budget, Then Increase Deficit In Separate Bill)
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the bill will add $141 billion to the federal deficits over the next decade, and by 2035 it will add half a trillion dollars to the federal debt, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.
President Obama applauded passage of the bill in a statement Tuesday, and said he will be “proud” to sign it into law. (RELATED: Senate Overwhelmingly Approves Medicare ‘Doc-Fix’ Bill)
Cruz and Rubio joined just six other Republican senators in voting against the bill: Mike Lee, Jeff Sessions, Richard Shelby, David Perdue, Ben Sasse and Tim Scott.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, who is also expected to run in 2016, voted with Paul against the bill.
“While he’s supportive of parts of the bill, he was very concerned about the substantial unfunded cost and ultimately couldn’t vote for it,” an aide to Rubio told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The bill explicitly exempts itself from a rule known as PAYGO that requires Congress to “pay” for increased spending by finding cuts somewhere else.
Republican Sen. Mike Lee offered an amendment Tuesday that would strike the PAYGO exemption from the bill. Paul, Graham, Cruz and Rubio all voted for the amendment, but it was rejected.
Cruz released a statement Tuesday explaining his vote. “I cannot support the Boehner-Pelosi bill, which institutionalizes and expands Obamacare policies that harm patients and their doctors while adding roughly half a trillion dollars to our long-term debt within two decades,” he said.
“Any deal should be fully paid for and include significant and structural reforms to Medicare that provide seniors more power and control over their health care,” he added.
Paul was not immediately available for comment.