Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY) didn’t read the American Health Care Act (AHCA), legislation to dismantle Obamacare that will result in millions of people losing access to affordable insurance, before House Republicans voted to pass it on Thursday. And he had no idea the bill would cost his state billions of federal dollars used to insure thousands of his constituents.
During a CNN appearance on Thursday, Wolf Blitzer asked Collins if he’d actually read the AHCA before voting for it.
“I will fully admit, Wolf, that I did not,” Collins said. “But I can also assure you my staff did. We have to rely on our staff… I’m very comfortable that we have a solution to the disaster called Obamacare.”
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“Congressman, this legislation affects a fifth of the U.S. economy and millions and millions of Americans — don’t you think it was important to actually sit down and read, read the language of this bill?” Blitzer pushed back.
Collins replied by suggesting he was hardly the only Republican who didn’t read the bill, which was rushed through before the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office could score it to detail its specific impact.
“You know, I have to rely on my staff, and I could probably tell you that I read every word, and I wouldn’t be telling you the truth, nor would any other member,” he said. “We rely on our staff, and we rely on our committees, and I’m comfortable that I understand this bill in its entirety, Wolf, without poring through every word.”
But not reading bills can have serious consequences. Later on Thursday, Collins admitted that he didn’t know the AHCA will cost New York $3 billion in federal funds — money that’s used to insure 19,000 of his constituents.
Told by a Buffalo News reporter that the state’s largest loss of federal funds under the bill would be $3 billion annually that goes to the state’s Essential Health Plan, Collins said: “Explain that to me.”
The Essential Plan is an optional program under Obamacare, offered only by New York and Minnesota, that provides low-cost health insurance to low- and middle-income people who don’t qualify for Medicaid. State Health Department figures show that more than 19,000 people in Erie and Niagara counties were on the Essential Plan in January.
Asked by The Buffalo News if he was aware of the bill’s cut in funding to the Essential Plan, Collins said: “No. But it doesn’t surprise me for you to tell me that there were two states in the nation that were taking advantage of some other waiver program and New York was one of the two states.”
In an attempt to defend Collins’ comments, his spokesman, Michael McAdams, tried to blame The Buffalo News.
“Once again The Buffalo News is twisting a Republican’s words to fit its out-of-touch, liberal narrative,” McAdams said, according to the publication. “Congressman Collins has been intimately involved in the creation of this legislation from its inception… He understands the impact it would have on Western New Yorkers. To infer Congressman Collins doesn’t understand the disastrous impact Obamacare has had on our region and our nation is absolutely shameful.”
Collins is correct that he’s not the only GOP lawmaker who didn’t read the legislation before casting a vote for it. During a CNN appearance Friday morning, Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) admitted that he too hadn’t read all of the AHCA before Thursday’s vote.
“I turned through every page,” Sanford said. “As to whether or not I got through some of the details on some of the pages, no. But yes, I attempted to read the entire bill.”
This is a far cry from the fall of 2010, when House Republican leaders unveiled their “Pledge to America,” which contained a “Read the Bill” promise.
“We will ensure that bills are debated and discussed in the public square by publishing the text online for at least three days before coming up for a vote in the House of Representatives,” it said.