Read the Bill? Who Has Time for That?

House Leaders Break the Rules in Rush to Repeal Obamacare

Posted by Jay Riestenberg on May 4, 2017


Americans deserve transparency from our government, especially when our healthcare and financial well-being is at stake. But Republican leaders in the House of Representatives seem to favor rushing a vote to repeal Obamacare over transparency and accountability.

The House is voting today on a bill that Republicans say will repeal and replace major parts of the Affordable Care Act, which was former President Barack Obama’s premier legislative achievement. The vote follows a nearly decade-long campaign by Republicans to repeal the law and weeks of legal drafting and legislative arm-twisting that continued as floor debate began this morning.

The rushed vote is problematic for several reasons. To start, many House members have had only a few hours to study the text; much of the public hasn’t seen it at all.  Rep. Thomas Massie, R-KY, Tweeted on Wednesday that the bill “is like a kidney stone - the House doesn't care what happens to it, as long as they can pass it.”

House rules require the text of legislation to be posted online for 72 hours before any vote. With today’s vote, House Republicans will likely grant themselves a waiver of that rule.

The scheduled vote also comes in advance of the usual “scoring” of such legislation by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO).  A CBO report on an earlier version of the bill concluded that 24 million Americans would lose their healthcare insurance by 2026 and premiums would increase for many still covered under the proposal.

While both parties have ducked the 72-hour rule through the years, Americans especially deserve transparency and a clear assessment of such sweeping legislation.

When Congress was considering the bill that eventually would become Obamacare in the 2009-2010 term, Speaker Paul Ryan himself sponsored a resolution requiring that members of Congress receive information related to the cost of healthcare reform legislation 72 hours before any vote. At the same time, Ryan cosponsored bipartisan legislation requiring the text of all bills to be posted online 72 hours before a vote. When some members of Congress were fast-tracking a bill related to refugees in 2015, Speaker Ryan objected.  The process was “definitely outside of the realm of regular order,” he declared, insisting that the House use the “72-hour rule we care about.”

Rather than rush a bill that could leave millions of Americans without health insurance, Speaker Ryan should remember his support for transparency and careful consideration of legislation before he guts the rules to appease President Trump, political donors, and special interest groups that want to repeal Obamacare.

 

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Office: Common Cause National

Issues: More Democracy Reforms

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