I agree with Drew McCoy: This is obviously a stunt, but for a good cause. (Since when do senators have a right to see a House bill that’s still in progress?) Paul was inspired by this report that House Republicans have a new plan to replace ObamaCare in the works — but because the reaction to last week’s plan didn’t go so well, they’re keeping this draft close to the vest. Really close.
The document is being treated a bit like a top-secret surveillance intercept. It is expected to be available to members and staffers on the House Energy and Commerce panel starting Thursday, but only in a dedicated reading room, one Republican lawmaker and a committee aide said. Nobody will be given copies to take with them…
Republican leaders are trying to avoid a repeat of what happened last time. When an outdated draft leaked last week, it was quickly panned by conservatives…
“The draft of it is going to be available tomorrow for those of us on the health subcommittee to start poring through,” said Representative Chris Collins of New York, a Trump ally and member of the health subcommittee of Energy and Commerce. “Unfortunately for you, we’re making sure it won’t be leaked.”
“I have been told that the House Obamacare bill is under lock & key, in a secure location, & not available for me or the public to view,” Paul tweeted this morning, kicking off a Capitol Hill treasure hunt. He went to the room where the bill was supposedly being kept and asked the staffer at the door for a copy, but came up empty. For, er, a good reason:
The bill wasn’t there! So where was it? At a loss, Paul decided to swing by the office of Cathy McMorris Rodgers, head of the House Republican Conference, figuring that she must have a copy. He knocked, but they wouldn’t let him in. So he tried to make it easy for them:
KY Sen Rand Paul wheeled over a portable copy machine to McMorris Rodgers office in an effort to photocopy the health care bill
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) March 2, 2017
Still no dice. Greg Walden, head of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, then told reporters that the Bloomberg story quoted above is false and that the House GOP isn’t hiding any draft — but that contradicts what Bloomberg’s anonymous sources, as well as Chris Collins, said about taking measures to make sure it won’t be leaked. Politico is also hearing that, if there’s a bill, it’s on a need-to-know basis right now: “Republican aides said they believed the room on the first floor of the Capitol is being used for Energy and Commerce members to read the bill. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), a committee member, said he was also not able to read the bill and was told it was not available.”
Paul took to Twitter to grandstand — I mean, vent:
@RandPaul This is unacceptable. This is the biggest issue before Congress and the American people right now.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 2, 2017
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 2, 2017
As you’ll see below, yes, he did indeed taunt Ryan et al. by using Pelosi’s immortal line about having to pass the bill to find out what’s in it. Paul’s been sour on the House’s ObamaCare plans for weeks, even walking out of a meeting led by Ryan last month because he disliked their idea for using refundable tax credits to help people buy insurance (fiscal conservatives consider it a new health-care entitlement) and he thought their plan kept too much of O-Care’s Medicaid expansion in place. Influential House conservatives like Mark Meadows and Mark Walker also promised to vote no on last week’s House draft bill because of the tax-credits issue. Does the new draft keep those or does it use non-refundable credits instead, which would mean only people who earn income and actually pay taxes would qualify for help in purchasing plans?
We probably won’t need to pass the bill to find out what’s in it, but given that the GOP’s now expecting the votes in Congress to be gut-check “I dare you to oppose this if Trump supports it” affairs, it’s not crazy for Paul to suspect that Ryan and McConnell will limit scrutiny as much as possible before they try to ram it through. After all, the sooner a draft is publicly available, the more time Paul, Meadows, and Walker have to agitate against it as too liberal. “Too liberal” isn’t a problem for the newly Trumpified GOP base but it’s a potential problem in Congress, where there are still enough fiscal conservatives to sink the bill if they vote as a bloc. Which they probably won’t once Trump speaks up in support of Ryan’s plan. Remember, if you believe John Kasich’s aides, Trump’s problem with the House bill may be that it’s too conservative in reducing the number of people who have insurance, not that it’s not conservative enough.
Here’s Paul outside what he thought was the secret room where the bill was being held. Don’t ask me what’s going on with those little Alex Jones and Putin graphics in the corners. I don’t know and don’t want to know. I take what YouTube gives me, man.