Senate Democrats on Tuesday continued to assail how Republican leaders are crafting legislation to overhaul the U.S. health care system, calling it “legislative malpractice,” and are using GOP leaders’ own statements from years past to make their point.
While Republican members routinely criticize the manner in which Democrats passed the 2010 health care law on a strictly party-line vote, there are stark differences between that process and the current one.
Democrats held a number of public hearings and marathon markups on the legislation before bringing it to the floor for a vote. Republicans, however, have refused to hold public hearings on a bill that would affect nearly one-sixth of the country’s economy and are prepared to bypass the regular committee process and bring the legislation directly to the Senate floor.
“We are in the midst of one of the greatest acts of legislative malpractice Washington has ever seen. Senate Republicans are squirreled away behind closed doors, writing a bill they won’t let the public read,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer told reporters Tuesday. “They don’t want the American people to see how poorly they would do under this bill.”
The New York Democrat cited critical comments Vice President Mike Pence, then an Indiana congressman, made after the 2010 health care law passed about the process used by Democrats.
“He said, ‘American people deserve time to read this and every member of Congress ought to commit to reading the bill.’ Today, no member of Congress can read the bill because we don’t know what it is,” Schumer said, just moments before Pence and his security detail passed behind the Democratic leader. The comments of House Speaker Paul D. Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell assailing the 2009-2010 effort as a rush job were trotted out as well.
While Republicans continue to charge ahead on their overhaul effort, leadership spent a notable portion of their weekly press conference Tuesday defending the current process.
McConnell — a vocal critic of the tactics used by Democrats to pass the 2010 law — attributed the lack of public hearings to the fact that both parties have been dealing with the issues surrounding the U.S. health care system for the past seven years.
“We know a lot about the subject, we know how complicated it is. Nobody is hiding the ball here. Feel free to ask anybody anything. But there’s been gazillions of hearings on this subject,” the Kentucky Republican told reporters after the weekly GOP policy lunch. “We’ll let you see the bill when we finally release it.”
Other Republican leaders said the open process for the legislation would begin once it reaches the chamber floor for a vote.
“Now we hear them complaining about transparency. The Republican Senate bill under reconciliation will go to the Senate floor and be open for amendments. It will be an open amendment process,” said Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Republican Policy Committee.
Meanwhile, several GOP senators said Monday they were unaware of key policy details that were under consideration. Fifteen Republican senators on Tuesday traversed up Pennsylvania Avenue for a lunch meeting with President Donald Trump and Pence on health care.
At the start of the lunch, Trump said he wanted the Senate to pass a bill to repeal and replace former President Barack Obama’s signature domestic policy achievement “as soon as we can do it.” He predicted the Senate will eventually pass a “phenomenal bill” that will feature a “great health care plan” that will be “far better” than the Obama-era law.
John T. Bennett contributed to this report.