He’s on the “working group” that’s ostensibly writing the bill, the vote is tentatively set for next week(!), and … he hasn’t seen it yet. Neither has anyone else outside of Mitch McConnell’s inner circle. It’s hard to imagine a more total repudiation of tea-party “good government” concerns circa 2010 than the Senate leadership writing a health-care reform bill in secret, then trying to ram it through with as little debate as possible. A time capsule:
It's simply wrong for legislation that'll affect 100% of the American people to be negotiated behind closed doors – http://ow.ly/W9gq #hcr
— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) January 13, 2010
Imagine being Mike Lee, the first man to successfully primary an establishment Republican incumbent in 2010, now forced to try to explain the furtive actions of his leadership the last few weeks. A disgrace:
“I’m very eager to see the language,” Senator Susan Collins of Maine told reporters in Washington, adding that she’s concerned about the possibility of a vote on the Obamacare repeal measure next week. “I don’t think it gives enough time to thoroughly analyze the bill, but we’ll see when it comes out.”…
Arizona Republican John McCain, asked whether he’s seen the bill, said, “No, nor have I met any American that has. I’m sure the Russians have been able to hack in and gotten most of it.”…
Top Republicans — including Finance Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah — have said they don’t know what’s in the bill either…
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who insists the bill must not provide more generous health-care subsidies than Obamacare, said the measure should have been debated “in the open.” Using a one-party approach is setting up failure over the long term, he said.
The plan for now is to release the bill on Thursday, have it scored by CBO over the weekend, then hold the big vote next Thursday. One full week to read, consider, debate, and vote on a plan that would, if adopted by the House, overhaul the entire U.S. health-industry. Why the rush? Partly it’s a pressure tactic: McConnell knows his margin for error is razor thin, with no more than two Republicans able to oppose the bill without killing it, so he’s going to gut-check the caucus by slapping it down in front of them and demanding their answer ASAP. Partly too, though, it’s a function of priorities. The GOP cares less about health-care reform than it does about tax reform; the former is mostly just a box they need to check to keep their promise to replace ObamaCare with something, anything. The longer they spend on it, the less time they’ll have this fall to address tax reform. So they’re going to push a bill through knowing that the House almost certainly won’t adopt it as is and therefore they’ll need to go back to the drawing board anyway in a conference committee.
Good question from Haley Byrd: For all of the grumbling from Lee and other Republican senators about the hasty, secretive process (much more secretive than ObamaCare, in fact, which was subject to many committee hearings), will a single GOPer vote no on the bill purely on procedural grounds? That is, even if McConnell uncorks a bill that can get 50 votes on the merits, will a Lee or a Rand Paul or a Tom Cotton — who complained about the haste with which the House bill was passed, even though it took far longer than his own chamber’s will — refuse to vote with the caucus simply because it’s being rushed through? It’s gut-check time, all right.