Vague Signs of Movement on GOP Health Care Measure

Legislative text could be available within days

Democratic Sens. Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Cory Booker of New Jersey take a selfie before a meeting with CBO Director Keith Hall in Ford Building where they asked for a copy of the Republicans' health care bill score. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senators returned to work on Tuesday in an escalating atmosphere of uncertainty about legislation to alter the U.S. health insurance system, with outstanding questions about the measure’s timing, cost and even the chamber’s committee schedule.

Before the Senate gaveled in, Democrats signaled they would invoke the so-called two-hour rule that restricts the time and duration of committee meetings. The upshot is that panels that meeting in the morning would largely be cut off after two hours, and any hearings scheduled to take place in the afternoon would be rescheduled.

While speculation swirled that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky would schedule a vote on the health care measure next week before the Independence Day recess, other senators signaled they could see legislative text that has been drafted in secret sometime this week. 

Sen. Bob Corker, for instance, said he expected the legislative language on the health care reconciliation bill to be circulated Thursday.

“My understanding is I’m going to see it on Thursday,” Corker said when asked on MSNBC if he had seen the measure.

The Republican from Tennessee added that his understanding was to expect an all-Republican senators meeting to begin to discuss the final language on Wednesday.

He also signaled that he expected the bill text to be released publicly on Thursday as well, with about a week for review before the vote would occur on passage.

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas said he hopes that the Congressional Budget Office score for parts of the health care bill will be available in a couple of days.

“There have been pieces of it sent and I think we’ve tried to send pieces along as we can, because we do need a CBO score before we vote,” Cornyn said.

Reports that CBO had been scoring parts of the bill prompted Democrats Cory Booker of New Jersey, Brian Schatz of Hawaii and Christopher S. Murphy of Connecticut to plan a Tuesday field trip to the CBO’s offices at the Ford Building to ask if they could take a look. 

Niels Lesniewski and Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report. 

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