Politics

Lawmakers Hunt Around the Capitol for Obamacare Repeal Bill

Several members searched the building Thursday for legislation they say is being kept out of public eye

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., stands with his copier on a cart as he speaks to reporters after trying to gain access to the room housing the House Republicans' so-called secret health care plan on Thursday. Paul hoped to make copies of the plan. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle went on an unsuccessful hunt around the Capitol on Thursday to find a bill that aims to repeal and replace the 2010 health care law, with one congressman calling the need for such a probe "extremely bizarre."

Sen. Rand Paul, armed with a copy machine, crisscrossed chambers to a Capitol office room in the House guarded by an armed police officer asking to see the bill. After he was denied entry, Paul criticized House leaders for not being more transparent.

"I don't think this is the way the American process should work," the Kentucky Republican told a group of reporters.

Meanwhile, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., the ranking Democrat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee — which has jurisdiction over health care — walked into Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy's office looking for the legislation. 

Joined by Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., a fellow committee member, Pallone was told to head to the office of Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden. Pallone's search was not successful.

The New Jersey Democrat, who called looking for a bill he wasn't sure existed "extremely bizarre," said Americans expected such a measure to be worked out in a bipartisan manner "and that's just not the case."

"It's just an outrage and I'm going to keep demanding where the bill is," Pallone said.

Walden refuted claims of a so-called secret bill.

In a statement, the Oregon Republican said majority members continue to work on refining the language of a draft bill.

"Reports that the Energy and Commerce Committee is doing anything other than the regular process of keeping its members up to speed on the latest developments in its jurisdictions are false," Walden said.

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland also joined in the search, peeking into the House Ways and Means Committee room only to find no one — and nothing — present.

Paul blasted committee members for keeping a plan to repeal and replace the health care law out of public viewing.

“We’ve been told it’s take it or leave it, this is what you get. I think that’s why it’s top secret. Why don’t they want us to see it?” Paul asked reporters. "It’s like a security clearance hearing, you have to have security clearance and permission and you have to be on the committee to see the full bill.”

New York GOP Rep. Chris Collins, who worked on President Donald Trump's transition team, said on Wednesday that no members would get a copy of the bill in an effort to prevent it from leaking as a previous House GOP-backed plan had been.

Collins said the bill would be available only for members to read, but as of Thursday afternoon, no members had confirmed actually seeing apiece of legislation.

Bridget Bowman and Erin Mershon contributed to this report.Contact Rahman at remarahman@cqrollcall.com or follow her on Twitter at @remawriter

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