Senate GOP will keep its health care bill secret until the last possible minute

The bill is nearing completion, but Republicans don’t plan to make a draft public.

Trump and McConnell shake hands at the White House on June 6. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
Trump and McConnell shake hands at the White House on June 6. CREDIT: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais

Senate Republicans plan to send their health care bill to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for analysis but don’t yet have a plan to release a draft of the bill for public scrutiny, according to Axios.

“We aren’t stupid,” an aide to a Senate Republican told Axios.

It’s perhaps understandable that Senate Republicans would want to shine as little light as possible on an unpopular bill that could cause millions of people to lose their health insurance.

The Senate is reportedly putting the final touches on a health care bill that looks very similar to the so-called American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed by the House. According to the CBO, the House version would cost 23 million Americans their health insurance while dramatically increasing costs for older Americans and people with pre-existing conditions, in part because of the bill’s $834 billion cut to Medicaid over the next decade.

Polling shared by Fox News on Friday indicates that the AHCA is more unpopular than ever, with just a 17 percent approval rating.

Instead of trying to improve the bill, Trump administration reacted to the CBO’s evaluation of the House version by going on the offensive against the nonpartisan budget office, arguing that its assessments can’t be trusted.

During a news conference in March, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) indicated that Senate Republicans plan to follow that same script.

“The Congressional Budget Office is notoriously bad at anticipating what’s going to happen in the marketplace,” McConnell said with regard to the CBO’s negative evaluation of an earlier iteration of the AHCA. “They’re sometimes not even good at adding and subtracting.”

The lack of transparency surrounding the process to craft a health care bill prompted Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) to speak out during a Senate Finance Committee hearing last Thursday.

“We have no idea what’s being proposed,” McCaskill said, addressing chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT). “There’s a group of guys in a back room somewhere that are making these decisions… Listen, this is hard to take.”

“You couldn’t have a more partisan exercise than what you’re engaged in right now,” she continued. “We’re not even gonna have a hearing on a bill that impacts one-sixth of our economy. We’re not going to have an opportunity to offer a single amendment. It is all being done with an eye to try to get it by with 50 votes and the vice president.”

McCaskill went on to blast McConnell for his hypocrisy. Before the 2014 election that returned control of the Senate to Republicans, McConnell “pledged to send bills through committees, even if it might upset members of his own conference,” as The Hill reported in May of that year. But last week, McConnell gave the health care bill “fast track” status, meaning it can skip the committee process altogether.

Republican hypocrisy was also evidence during the House process. Before the 2010 election that returned control of the House to Republicans, House Republican leaders unveiled their “Pledge to America.” The pledge contained a “Read the Bill” promise vowing, “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.” But a number of House Republicans admitted to not even reading the AHCA before they cast a vote for it.

The lack of transparency in the Senate process was criticized by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Monday afternoon.

As McCaskill alluded to, the group of Senate Republicans working on their chamber’s version of Trumpcare are all men — some of them so anti-abortion that they may end up insisting on including anti-choice language in the bill that puts it at risk of violating Senate rules.

Axios reports that the Senate bill is nearing completion, but that doesn’t mean that the American public will learn about details anytime soon. When completed, Republicans plan to send the secret bill to the CBO for evaluation. That should take about two weeks — leaving Republicans with enough time to take a vote on it before the July 4 recess.