Republican senators will soon determine the fate of millions of Americans’ health care after a secret legislative process, despite their own shaky accusations years ago that Democrats were violating the public trust with the passage of Obamacare.
Members of the Senate Republican Conference have written their bill to repeal and replace Obamacare entirely in secret, and senators are aiming to vote on the yet-unseen legislation by June 30, without holding any public hearings on the bill, in time for the July 4th recess.
Reports indicate Senate Republicans plan on dramatically slashing Medicaid and private insurance market subsidies.
Amid the behind-the-scenes flurry of activity, Senate Republicans are personifying their own accusations against Democrats’ health care effort in 2009-2010, when they accused the majority party of crafting the legislation “behind closed doors,” “in secret” and without “transparency.”
The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips noted Monday:
“[A]t this point in the 2009-2010 debate for the Affordable Care Act, there had been months of public committee hearings that you and I could attend or watch online or read about in the news. Senators had been briefed on what was happening and could answer reporters’ questions instead of saying they have no idea what’s in the bill. Amendments were offered by both sides.”
None of that is true this time around.
Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) pointed out the discrepancy on the Senate floor Monday afternoon.
“I have a few parliamentary inquiries,” he told Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who was presiding over the chamber at the time. “First, is the Chair aware of the number of consecutive days in session and the number of hours the Senate considered H.R. 3590, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act?”
“The Secretary of the Senate’s office notes that H.R. 3590 was considered on each of 25 consecutive days of session, and the Senate Library estimates approximately 169 hours in total consideration,” Ernst responded.
Trumpcare: 0 days of hearings pic.twitter.com/odHYpgDYUx
— CAP Action (@CAPAction) June 19, 2017
Also on Monday, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to commit to Schumer that the public would have even 10 hours between the release of legislative text and a vote on the Senate floor.
“We’ll have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill,” McConnell said Monday, referring to his own conference’s bill.
McConnell himself has admitted to a double-standard: Justifying the hyper-secret process to the New York Times Thursday, the majority leader said “we’ve been dealing with this issue for seven years.” He added that there had already been “gazillions of hearings on this subject.”
On Friday, MSNBC’s “All In” dug up McConnell accusing Democrats in 2009 of writing their health proposal “behind closed doors, without input from anyone, in an effort to jam it past not only the Senate but the American people.”
— All In w/Chris Hayes (@allinwithchris) June 17, 2017
The Republican-led effort has progressed quickly. “I expect us to vote on it next week,” Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) told Politico on Monday. Sen. Orin Hatch (R-UT) told Politico that “[w]e could” vote on the legislation this month.
Years ago, the Utah senator expressed outrage at what were real efforts for legislative transparency and incorporation of minority party ideas and amendments, including Burr’s.
”The real bill is currently being written behind closed doors in the dark corners of the Capitol,” Hatch said in October 2009, after a vote in the Senate Finance Committee, a full five months and dozens of hours of debate before the final version of the Affordable Care Act reached President Barack Obama’s desk.
This post has been updated.