McConnell Promises ‘Robust Debate’ After Unveiling Secret O’Care Repeal Bill

Andrew Harnik/AP

After months of closed-door, GOP-only negotiations to draft a health care bill that Republican senators hope will replace Obamacare, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) promised there would be “ample time to analyze, discuss and provide thoughts” and a “robust debate” over the Better Care Reconciliation Act before that legislation comes to the floor.

In a speech on the Senate floor minutes after the text of the bill was released Thursday, the majority leader touted his office’s ability to write a strong draft during “dozens of meetings open to each and every member of Congress” and that incorporates input from “so many different members who represent so many different constituents who are facing so many different challenges.”

Democrats and multiple Republican senators had expressed frustration this week over being excluded from that drafting process, however. McConnell said in his floor speech that he hopes “every senator” would take part in discussing the bill next week, after outlining the specifics of the legislation that he says will ultimately allow the country to “transition away from Obamacare’s collapsing system entirely so more Americans will not be hurt.”

“We will proceed with a robust debate and open amendment process on the Senate floor, a process I would encourage each of the 100 Senators to participate in,” he said. “When legislation does come to the floor, it will present Senate Democrats with another opportunity to do what’s right for the American people. They can choose to keep standing by as their failing law continues to collapse and hurt more Americans, but I hope they will join us instead to bring relief to the families who struggled under Obamacare for far too long.”

McConnell went on to call the Affordable Care Act a “direct attack on the middle class” and said Americans “deserve better than a failing status quo,” even though Senate Republicans’ draft of the bill would shift more of the burden of the cost of care to patients.

He also said his team was committed to strengthening Medicaid. The Senate’s bill gradually phases out Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion and makes steeper cuts to the program overall. Additionally, the number of low-income people who receive subsidies to buy insurance would decrease under the Senate proposal, from those who make up 400 percent of the poverty line under Obamacare to 350 percent.

This post has been updated.