Wednesday, 23 August, 2017

Dems say they'll slow Senate work over secretive care bill

President Donald Trump walks with National Security Adviser H.R. Mc Master on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday. Trump recently told Republican senators that the health care bill passed in the House is “mean” and urged them to craft a Denouncing GOP's 'War on Women,' Nationwide Sit-Ins Target Trumpcare
Garry Little | 20 June, 2017, 00:42

Senate Republicans have sought to minimize public disagreement with their measure by holding all health care discussions behind closed doors as Senate leaders race to craft a bill that could garner the 50 votes needed for passage.

That's not normal, say nonpartisan health care analysts and historians. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. confer on Capitol Hill in Washington.

On Monday, Schumer and three other Democrats on the Senate committee on health, education, labor and pensions sent a letter addressed to Republican leaders demanding that they "schedule hearings to discuss, debate and hear testimony about the healthcare bill that you are now drafting in secret".

The Senate is planning to act soon to pass their own bill, which is expected to mirror numerous provisions of the House GOP bill.

The Obamacare replacement passed by the House last month includes deep cuts to Medicaid and other health expenditures.

This process defies two centuries of Senate tradition that says the upper chamber is the statesmanlike brake on the passions of the more raucous House. In the Kaiser Health Tracking poll, only 8 percent said they wanted it passed.

"I think it's time that we start focusing all of our attention on health care", said Senator Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat. "This bill is speeding to the floor".

Amidst mounting frustration about Republicans' secretive deliberations to repeal Obamacare, Democrats plan to throw sand in the gears of the Senate to try to force a more public debate.

Democrats are also telegraphing a series of parliamentary inquiries from their chamber desks to the presiding officer that they hope will show a contrast in the legislative process used to advance what became the 2010 health care overhaul law and the current process. It would replace Obamacare subsidies with tax credits based primarily on age, and let states get waivers from some of the Affordable Care Act's consumer protections. They also must navigate abortion policy.

Unlike the AHCA, the Senate's bill reportedly excludes a provision that would have allowed insurers to not cover Americans with pre-existing conditions, eliminating one of the most significant changes instituted by Obamacare.

The clock is ticking.

"Republicans are drafting this bill in secret because they're ashamed of it, plain and simple", Schumer said.

"Nobody can defend a process, which will impact tens of millions of Americans, and nobody even knows what's in the [legislation]..."

The same lawmakers are facing growing criticism from both sides of the aisle for not releasing more details about the healthcare plan and refusing to hold public hearings. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska; Susan Collins, R-Maine; Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va.; and Dean Heller R-Nev., according to the report. Democrats using such means, he added, "would make it absolutely clear they intend to carry out their plans on a purely partisan basis".

A spokesman for McConnell declined to comment. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., told reporters this week.

A separate Medicaid issue - how quickly to phase out the funding for the expansion of the program - remains up in the air. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, Patty Murray, D-Washington and Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, sent a letter to top Republicans asking that they schedule hearing to discuss, debate and hear testimony about "the health care bill that you are now drafting in secret". Rand Paul, R-Ky, told NBC News.

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