WASHINGTON ― Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has a pretty good idea why Senate Republican leaders are withholding the details of their health care repeal bill from the public ― because “they are so ashamed,” Schumer said on Monday.
After more than a half-dozen Senate Republicans declared they would never pass the measure the House passed earlier this year to repeal the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, legislators in the upper chamber have been working behind closed doors to come up with their own bill in hopes of finding the minimum 50 votes they need.
Like their colleagues in the House, they’ve held no hearings or public debates on what they’re considering. But they are reportedly taking the secrecy a step further and planning to keep the measure under wraps even after they send it to the Congressional Budget Office to get an official nonpartisan estimate of its impact on Americans.
The CBO projected that the House’s version of the bill, called the American Health Care Act, would drive some 23 million people off their insurance plans. Initial reports suggest the compromise plan the Senate is drawing up would actually have a similar effect.
Senate Republicans have said they’re aiming to pass something by July 4. But if they intend to keep the measure secret until the CBO is done estimating its impact, there would be very little time to vet the measure in public.
That set of circumstances prompted Schumer to accuse Republicans of cowardice, charging them and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of crafting a measure they know will only please core members of their base.
“Leader McConnell used to stress the importance of regular order in the Senate,” Schumer said. “Why is he proceeding with the Republican health care bill in the most irregular way?”
Schumer answered his own question.
“Republicans don’t want the American people to see the bill. They are so ashamed of their health care plan, they want to pass it in the dead of night,” he said. “If they were proud of the bill, they would say, ‘Let’s debate it.’ They’re ashamed of the bill.”
Still, GOP lawmakers are proceeding because they have to appease voters who insist on ending Obamacare, no matter what the effect is, he said.
“They know they have the hard right on their backs. They’ve got to do something,” Schumer said. “But at least have the decency, the honor, a little bit of courage to put the bill out there and let us debate it and let us amend it.”
McConnell offered no details about the legislation when he opened the Senate session on Monday, but did acknowledge that his party is struggling with it.
“Members will keep working this week, because because bringing relief from Obamacare may not be easy, but it is necessary,” McConnell said.
Obamacare has been running into increasing difficulties, which analysts blame largely on President Donald Trump and the Republican Congress for generating uncertainty over the health care law’s future.
Schumer contrasted the GOP’s effort to repeal Obamacare unfavorably with the Democratic push to pass the law in the first place, noting that his party held hearings for more than a year, with Democrats accepting dozens of GOP amendments.