REMEMBER WHEN Obamacare was written “hastily,” “behind closed doors” in “secret” negotiations, so that Democrats could “jam” an unpopular health-care bill through Congress? Remember when this showed that they “didn’t care what was in it” and that they had betrayed the “trust” of the American people? Remember when “the issue of health reform” was “too important to not take the time to get it right”?
Republicans are hoping you do not remember, or that you are willing to forget now that the shoe is on the other foot. Led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), they are barrelling toward a vote next week on a bill that as of Wednesday afternoon they had not released to the public — eliciting expressions of concern about the rushed process even from Republicans.
Criticism after criticism that Republicans have lobbed at Democrats over the years about how the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed apply to a far greater extent to the health-care bill the GOP leadership has been drafting covertly.
Whereas various versions of the bill Democrats wrote in 2009 and 2010 went through committees , where Republicans could offer feedback and amendments, the Senate has held no hearings and no committee votes on the bill the Republicans are writing. Whereas the Democrats spent weeks trying to bargain with Republicans on health-care reform, Republicans have made no such attempt at good-faith negotiation as they have sought to reform the ACA. Whereas Senate Democrats held 25 days of debate on Obamacare, the Republicans have reportedly budgeted themselves about a week between the release of the bill’s text and the vote on it. With the Congressional Budget Office unable to release its analysis of any GOP plan until next week, there might be only a handful of days between publication of the official scorekeepers’ estimates of what the bill would do to Americans’ health care and the Senate vote.
Republicans respond that the bill will be open to amendment on the floor and that health-care policy has been the subject of public debate for years now, obviating the need for legislative transparency. If that is so, then the Republicans have lost the debate. Polls show that the GOP repeal-and-replace effort is plumbing new depths of unpopularity. This should be unsurprising to any dispassionate observer of the Republican initiative. The House passed a bill that even President Trump reportedly described as “mean.” It would fund a large tax cut by scaling back health assistance, resulting in 23 million more people uninsured in a decade, with the pain concentrated on poorer and older people. Because of the Senate Republicans’ opaque process, it is still unclear whether their bill will end up as cruel. Reports from inside, however, suggest it might be even tougher on Medicaid, the health-care program for the poor and near-poor.
Republicans can hide their bill, for now. But they will own the consequences.
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