Now vs. Then: Senate Republicans on Health Care Overhaul

Some singing same song, others flip flop

A group of 13 Senate Republicans worked on the health care overhaul bill released Thursday. From left, Sens. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., John Barrasso, R-Wyo., Roy Blunt, R-Mo., Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas on June 6, 2017. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Prior to the release of Senate legislation to overhaul U.S. health care Thursday, Democrats took aim at Republican leadership for crafting a bill largely behind closed doors.

Seven years ago, roles were reversed as Senate Republicans railed against Democrats for a lack of transparency in the passage of President Barack Obama’s signature health care law. 

Here is a look at what Republicans have said about the overhaul process, seven years ago compared to now. 

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

At a Republican press conference on December 18, 2009:

“This massive piece of legislation that seeks to restructure one-sixth of our economy is being written behind closed doors without input from anyone in an effort to jam it past not only the Senate but the American people before Christmas. An artificial deadline — every American will be affected by this missing bill. Every single American will be affected by this, and no one would have had an opportunity to read it and to understand it.”
On February 24, 2010, he criticized the reconciliation process:
“What they have in mind is a last-ditch legislative sleight-of-hand called reconciliation that would enable them to impose government-run health care for all on the American people, whether Americans want it or not.”
Flash forward to 2017, Majority Leader McConnell said this about reconciliation:
“The [Democratic] Leader is somehow arguing that reconciliation is not an open process. It’s an open process. There are an unlimited number of amendments. First bill text is received, then a CBO score is issued. Members will have time to review both. After that, there is an open amendment process and robust debate. It’s the one type of amendment we have on the floor of the Senate that no one can prevent amendments on. Ultimately, at the end of the process, the Senate votes. That’s how reconciliation works.”

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo. 

Called for greater transparency in 2010:

“After promising unprecedented transparency, Democrats have kicked the cameras and the American people out of the health care process. Apparently they realize that sweetheart deals don’t look so good in the sunshine.”
Recently, Barrasso vowed to keep the process open. He told Wolf Blitzer on CNN Wednesday there will be “plenty of opportunity” for debate on the new bill after the draft was released: 
“The American people are going to be able to watch it all on C-SPAN, and that opportunity is coming.“  

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas

In 2010: 

“My Republican colleagues and the American people have been largely shut out of the health care reform proceedings thus far, as Democrat Leaders packaged their health care bills behind closed doors and layered them with billions of dollars in sweetheart deals to woo undecided Democrats.”
In 2017, Cornyn defended the closed door sessions to draft the bill, but said debate will occur soon:
“Unfortunately, due to the fact that Democrats will not participate in this process, but are actually hoping we fail, that we’re forced to deal with it in this manner. And it’ll be completely transparent, and there’ll be a wholesome debate and an unlimited amendments voted on.”

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. 

In 2009:

“If we haven’t seen it, don’t you think we should have time to at least examine it? I mean, I don’t think it would be outrageous to ask for a bill to be read that we haven’t seen that affects one-seventh of our gross national product.”
McCain kept the same tone this time around: 
“We used to complain like hell when the Democrats ran the Affordable Care Act. Now, we’re doing the same thing.”

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.

On reconciliation in 2010:

“You can say that this process has been used before, and that would be right. But it’s never been used for anything like this. It’s not appropriate to use to write the rules for 17 percent of the economy. Senator Byrd, who is the constitutional historian of the Senate, has said that it would be an outrage to run the health care bill through the Senate like a freight train with this process.”
And on the same process in 2017:
“It’s not an ideal way to do it. It wasn’t ideal for them. It’s not ideal for us. But it may be the only way you can deal with the subject at a time when people have such different opinions about the issue.”
  Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call on your iPhone or your Android.