Republican Senators have recently come under fire for engaging in what has widely been described as clandestine meetings to draft a revised version of the American Health Care Act (ACHA). President Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan failed to pass the first incarnation of the bill earlier this year.
The first draft of the ACHA was then sent to Senate Republicans for consideration and revisions. However, Democrats and civil society organizations have been critical of the way in which Republicans have gone about it.
So far the process has been mostly partisan with no outside consultation. According to Senate historian, Don Ritchie, the last time such a secretive, partisan legislative process took place was around World War I.
Earlier this week, while hosting a press briefing on The Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rebuffed allegations that they were deliberately engaged in a closed-door process.
“We’ll let you see the bill when we finally release it. Nobody’s hiding the ball here. You’re free to ask anybody anything.”
McConnell, who plans to schedule a vote on the new bill in July, has previously called for the new health care law to be created transparently.
Health care accounts for eighteen percent of the American economy. It’s no wonder that civil society and Democrats are incensed at the alleged backdoor dealings on Capitol Hill. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer hit out at Republicans, vowing to delay the process in an attempt to prevent a planned vote in July.
Schumer said it was “the most glaring departure from the normal legislative procedure that I have ever seen.” According to the Democratic senator, Republicans are “writing their healthcare bill under cover of darkness because they are ashamed of it.”
But it’s not only the opposition that is concerned by the actions of Mitch McConnell and his elite team. Republican Senator Marco Rubio claimed that “the Senate is not a place where you can just cook up something behind closed doors and rush it for a vote on the floor.”
Critics have pointed out hypocrisy on the part of Republicans who vocally accused the Obama administration of drafting the Affordable Care Act “behind closed doors with secret [health-care] negotiations.”
The people have a right to know what is happening behind closed doors with secret HC negotiations
— JohnCornyn (@JohnCornyn) January 7, 2010
Democrats about to pass health care bill that no one’s read – where is the transparency? What a disgrace!
— John McCain (@SenJohnMcCain) November 6, 2009
Even the current Vice President, Mike Pence, had his say.
It's simply wrong for legislation that'll affect 100% of the American people to be negotiated behind closed doors – http://ow.ly/W9gq #hcr
— Governor Mike Pence (@GovPenceIN) January 13, 2010
However, according to PoliticFact, academic experts on Congressional matters have stated that there is no comparison between the current process and that of the Obamacare process led by the Democrats.
While drafting the Affordable Care Act, Democrats allowed for extensive hearings and offered Republicans numerous opportunities to make amendments. Political scientist, Steven S. Smith, points out that Republicans willingly withdrew from the legislative process.
“Democrats had to construct a 60-vote majority from their own membership. Democrats were subject to severe criticism for making the process partisan, but they responded — accurately — that their efforts for meaningful bipartisan deliberations were ended by the Republicans.”
Nevertheless, the latest version of the Senate bill revision was leaked to The Washington Post, suggesting that GOP lawmakers have indeed been working on the new bill without calling for hearings or non-partisan involvement.
Some of the significant changes to Trump’s potentially legacy-defining legislation include the rolling back of Medicaid, but with a provision that would lessen the initial impact on Americans who are most likely to lose cover after the bill is passed.
Although low-income earners may not be adversely affected in the short-term, deeper future cuts will hit those Americans the hardest.
Affordable Care Act taxes will also be scrapped, while subsidies are being rearranged. Rather than being determined according to age, income would now be the deciding factor when issuing grants.
States will also be given more leeway to opt out of regulations they did not agree with and would be allowed to remove all funding for Planned Parenthood.
The changes allegedly come as an attempt to appeal to moderate sensibilities as Republicans are hoping to pass the legislation next month.
Senator McConnell will present the revised bill to Republican skeptics today, hoping to whip up the required 50 votes that are necessary for the legislation to make it to Donald Trump’s Oval Office desk.
It remains to be seen how moderates will react to the provisions that go even further than the previous version of the bill to cut low-income health care subsidies.
Earlier this year, Paul Ryan canceled a scheduled vote hours before it was taken to the House floor after it became evident that Republicans did not have enough votes. Even if Senator McConnell manages to garner enough votes to pass the new bill, it will then move to the House where it will face tough scrutiny from a more conservative assembly.
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]