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Reporters and members of Congress were sent on something of a treasure hunt Thursday when they tried to view a House Republican Obamacare replacement plan that has received some top-level security.
Billy House and Arit John at Bloomberg on Wednesday reported that the House GOP plan was being kept in a secretive reading room and was only available to read in that room for members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and their staff starting Thursday.
But reporters, and even members of Congress, were eventually let in to that room, and they found it empty with no apparent piece of legislation in sight. Subsequent reports said the secure location had been moved.
“We’re on a treasure hunt, I guess,” said Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Illinois.
A draft of the House GOP plan was leaked last week, and it drew rebuke from Democrats and more conservative lawmakers in both the House and the Senate.
It also appeared that the room in which the bill was being kept was being guarded by Capitol police officers. The Twitter account for Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee tweeted a picture of police officers standing outside a room in the Capitol, saying, “House Republicans are literally guarding their health care bill with Capitol Police. Is it *that* dangerous?”
Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican, told Bloomberg that the House may mark up the bill – essentially, reviewing it in committee and making changes to the law – next week without a score from the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO provides nonpartisan estimates of the costs of all bills and coverage implications for those dealing with healthcare.
Members from both sides of the aisle on Thursday decried the secrecy over the bill, with Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi drawing attention to it during a press conference on Thursday and Republican Sen. Rand Paul railing against the methods in a tweetstorm.
“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 is unacceptable. This is the biggest issue before Congress and the American people right now.”
The secrecy isn’t without precedent: The draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the multilateral trade deal negotiated under the Obama administration, was also kept under similar security.