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Even for someone right in the thick of the action, the details of the Senate’s rewrite of the GOP healthcare bill seems like a mystery.
Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Democratic senator on the Senate Finance Committee, railed against what she viewed as a secretive process around the healthcare legislation as Republican leaders move toward a vote before the July 4 recess.
During a hearing with Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, McCaskill sparred with GOP Sen. Orrin Hatch, the chair of the committee, for not having a more open process in writing the bill.
McCaskill first asked Hatch if there was going to be a hearing in the Finance Committee on the bill, given that it could affect trillions of dollars in healthcare spending. Hatch, after conferring with an aide, did not commit to a hearing but said Democrats were welcome to give ideas on the bill.
McCaskill countered by saying this was not how the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare, was shaped into law. Republicans have continually criticized the ACA over the past seven years for being passed by Democrats in secret and rammed through on a partisan vote.
McCaskill then went after the Republicans for an alleged lack of communication and public transparency on the bill. McCaskill said (emphasis added):
“Dozens of Republican amendments were offered and accepted in that hearing process and when you say you’re inviting us – and I heard you Mr. Secretary [Tom Price] that you want our support – for what? We don’t even know. We have no idea what is being proposed. There’s a group of guys in a backroom somewhere making these decisions. There were no hearings in the House. And listen, this is hard to take because I know we made mistakes on the Affordable Care Act, Mr. Secretary, and one of the criticisms we got over and over again was that the vote was partisan. Well, you couldn’t have a more partisan process than what you’re engaged in right now.”
McCaskill said the reason for the secretive process is obvious. Since Republicans are using the budget reconciliation process, they only need a simple majority to pass the bill, and no need for Democratic votes.
But McCaskill charged that amounts to a violation of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to use regular order to pass bill, which would include more hearings and public testimony. Said McCaskill:
“I am stunned that that is what Leader McConnell would call regular order, which he sanctimoniously said would be the order of the day when the Republicans took the Senate over. We are now so far from regular order, new members don’t even know what it looks like. I know that doesn’t make you happy Mr. Chairman or Sen. [Chuck] Grassley, because you’ve been in the Senate so long you know the value of the hearing process and the amendment process.”
In the end, there is little the Democrats can do in the minority to stop the process to continue on its current path. But McCaskill made an appeal to Hatch’s and Grassley’s work on the Affordable Care Act.
“Both of you had amendments that were put in that bill, as did other members of this committee,” McCaskill said. “I want that opportunity. Give me that opportunity, give me the opportunity to work with you. That’s what is so discouraging about this process.”
Watch the McCaskill’s full statement below:
— Senate Democrats (@SenateDems) June 9,2017