Politicians talk to statue, lug around photocopier in search of 'secret' Obamacare replacement bill
It was quite a spectacle Thursday when Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), Democratic Whip of the House Steny Hoyer (Maryland) and several other members of Congress took to the halls of the Capitol building to seek out hidden legislation meant to succeed the Affordable Care Act.
During an official Facebook livestream, Hoyer wound up at the mercy of a bust of President Abraham Lincoln, after over four minutes of fruitless roaming.
I'm looking for the House GOP's secret ACA repeal bill since they are hiding it from Members and the publicPosted by Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer on Thursday, March 2, 2017
“Mr. Lincoln, you said public sentiment is everything. But if the public can't see the bill, they can't give us their sentiment. That's not regular order. That's not democracy. That's not good for our people. I know, Mr. Lincoln, you are as upset with your party as I am,” Hoyer actually said.
“Thank you all,” the 19-term congressman added, without bowing to the crowd that had gathered around him.
Somewhere, at one point rumored to be room H157, an invitation-only meeting of certain members of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee was reportedly taking place. This level of secrecy was either an outrage or a completely normal part of lawmaking, depending on who was asked.
“Committees write bills. That’s what they are currently working on,” a House Republican aide told Politico. “It’s only their part of the bill, and there’s another committee with jurisdiction, too. It’s confusing why this wouldn’t be expected.”
Repealing and replacing Obamacare wasn’t controversial to Republicans on the campaign trail, but now that it’s time to get on with it, the infighting has begun.
Senator Paul was the first to raise alarm bells that his fellow Republicans in the House were meeting privately. Paul, flanked by reporters and his own copy machine in case he found the bill, walked from the Senate side to the House side of the Capitol, about a quarter-mile, before being prevented from entering room H157. From there, he held an impromptu presser.
“This should be an open and transparent process,” the conservative Republican said, before blasting parts of Obamacare rumored to be continued in the replacement bill. Paul said that including a “Cadillac tax” on employer plans and essentially privatizing the individual mandate so that fines are paid to insurance companies instead of the IRS amount to “Democrat ideas dressed up in Republican clothing.”
Reporters also followed Democratic Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. of New Jersey and Jan Schakowsky of Illinois through a hearing room as well as a Capitol basement, the Washington Post reported.
Details of the bill may not be public for some time. According to the Washington Post, numerous attendees of the private meeting Thursday say House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) has a three-week plan leading to its passage.
Next week, the House Ways and Means Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee will supposedly settle their own versions of a replacement. The House Budget Committee takes over the following week, combining the two into one “reconciliation” bill to speed up Senate debate. Then finally, the House would vote sometime after March 20.