Dems slam Senate GOP for ‘secret’ health care process

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow joined Democratic colleagues delivering a series of speeches on the Senate floor late into Monday night, calling for hearings on Senate Republicans' unfinished bill to repeal Obamacare and criticizing them for crafting the legislation largely outside of public view.

“There’s a really good reason they won’t show us the bill. They won’t let us see it because it’s a disaster for people in Michigan that I represent,” the Lansing Democrat said on the Senate floor.

“Costs go up, care goes down, and there’s a tax cut for the millionaires and billionaires. We are better than this. ... Give the American people a chance to have input and say what they think.”

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, also criticized Senate Republicans for drafting their bill “behind closed doors.”

#Trumpcare could skyrocket coverage costs for countless MI seniors, yet Senate GOP refuses to hold public hearings,” Peters tweeted Monday.

GOP leaders are planning to vote on their health care legislation as early as next week before lawmakers depart for the July 4 recess. They say there will be sufficient time for members to review the bill.

One option reportedly under discussion would phase out the expansion of Medicaid over three years starting as early as 2020, which would have major consequences in the 31 states, including Michigan, that adopted the expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

Michigan officials have said that without a replacement for Medicaid expansion funding, the state likely couldn't afford to continue its “Healthy Michigan” program, which ensures more than 650,000 residents.

Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Democrats want to refer the House version of the repeal bill to the committee process for full debate and vetting.

“This is a bill that would likely reorder one-sixth of the American economy and have life-and-death consequences for millions of American, and it’s being discussed in secret, with no committee hearings, no debate, no amendments, no input from the minority,” Schumer said on the floor.

“This is the most glaring departure from normal legislative procedure that I’ve ever seen.”

Stabenow on Monday said in the lead up to passage of the Affordable Care Act, more than 100 hearings and committee meetings were held before the legislation was finalized, debated and reported out of committee, and that 147 GOP amendments were considered.

“Until the end, we were trying to do everything we could to get bipartisan support when it was clear that politically there was not a desire,” said Stabenow, who serves on the Senate Finance Committee.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday recalled the process of passing the Affordable Care Act differently, calling it “very partisan from the beginning.”

He reminded Democrats they passed a portion of that legislation in 2009 on a party line vote using the same budget reconciliation process that Republicans are now using to pass their bill.

“It’s an open process. There are an unlimited number of amendments,” said McConnell on the floor, adding members would have time to review both the bill text and an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office before a vote.

“We’ve been debating Obamacare’s failures and what to do about them for so many years now. Members are very, very familiar with this issue. We’ve heard so many anguished stories from constituents who’ve been hurt by Obamacare. Thankfully, at the end of this process, the Senate will finally have a chance to turn the page on this failed law.”

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