House Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace Obamacare took its first step forward in Congress early Thursday morning, as the House Ways and Means Committee advanced the legislation at 4:30 a.m.
After nearly 18 hours of debate during which Democratic lawmakers tried to slow down the process, the committee voted 23–16 in favor of the bill.
Leaders of the Republican Party unveiled their plan to undo Obamacare on Monday evening. Now, they’re trying to fast-track the legislation through Congress despite considerable controversy surrounding the bill — which will leave millions more people uninsured, raise costs for low-income Americans, provide tax giveaways to insurance CEOs, and potentially trigger a death spiral in the individual insurance market.
Two key committees worked through the night after beginning their markups of the bill on Wednesday morning. The Ways and Means Committee was the first to wrap up. Around 8:00 a.m., the Energy and Commerce Committee was still working — almost 24 hours after it started.
Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) celebrated the early morning advancement of the bill, thanking his colleagues for “their hard work and commitment to delivering on the President’s promise” to provide quality health care to all Americans.
In reality, House Republicans’ proposal breaks almost every health care promise that Trump made on the campaign trail. Rather than providing “great health care for a fraction of the price,” as Trump repeatedly pledged, the plan is projected to strip coverage from millions of Americans and provide far less financial assistance to low-income Americans.
Democrats on the committee criticized their Republicans colleagues for moving on the bill in the middle of the night.
“Here were are at almost 2 o’clock in the morning taking a vote when the American people have gone to sleep,” the leading Democrat on the committee, Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), said.
There’s been a lot of controversy over the lack of transparency surrounding the GOP’s rushed Obamacare repeal effort. Last week, Republican lawmakers literally hid the text of the proposed legislation, preventing Democrats from reading it before it was introduced. Then, they unveiled the bill before the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) had a chance to examine it to determine how much it will cost and how many people will lose their insurance. Even some Republicans, like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), have expressed concerns that the process is moving too quickly without enough time for review.
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) attempted to offer an amendment to the legislation that would have delayed the markup in the Ways and Means Committee until next week, arguing it’s unreasonable to hold a committee vote just two days after the bill was introduced. The amendment failed.
The measure will now head to the House Budget Committee. GOP leaders have indicated they want to bring it before the full House by early April.
But the GOP’s Obamacare replacement may have a rocky path ahead. The legislation is opposed by major health care lobbying groups, insurance companies, and medical associations, who worry about the negative effects it will have on the insurance market, as well as some Republican lawmakers and major right-wing players who don’t think it’s conservative enough.