House Republicans crafted a health-care bill behind closed doors and passed it quickly, and now Senate Republicans are attempting to do the same. Few GOP senators even know what’s in the bill that could come to a vote next week, some GOP senators are speaking out, and analysts say the secretive nature of this process appears to be unprecedented.
I’ve never seen anything like it, as far as the secrecy, Paul Ginsburg, a health policy expert at the University of Southern California, told The Fix’s Amber Phillips on Monday. Over at the Monkey Cage, meanwhile, George Washington University’s congressional expert Sarah Binder lays out four ways in which the secrecy goes above and beyond.
That secrecy in a vacuum is one thing. But it looks infinitely worse when compared to what the GOP said about Democrats’ secrecy in passing the Affordable Care Act in 2009 and 2010. And in fact, many of the GOP’s passionate criticisms back then are eerily applicable to what they are doing today.
Notably, the GOP repeatedly attached that secrecy argument to the unpopularity of Obamacare arguing that Democrats were ramming through the bill because it was unpopular and because Democrats wanted to pass it without having to defend it. Fast-forward to today, and Republicans have a bill that’s polling even worse than Obamacare ever did, with a Quinnipiac poll showing 57 percent of registered voters disapprove of it, vs. just 20 percent who approve.
That’s pretty much exactly what the GOP is now doing: Trying to jam through the bill to get it to a conference committee where the final product will be decided. But that’s not how they said business should be done in 2009 and 2010 not by a long shot.
Here’s a sampling of what the GOP said less than eight short years ago about crafting massive, unpopular health-care legislation behind closed doors, and how bad that was for the American people. (Our emphases added in bold.)
3. Now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who was then a Georgia congressman:
Once that thing passed to get them out of town on Christmas Eve and it was literally a Christmas tree that night when they passed it. But once they passed that bill, they all expected to come back to a conference committee or some other vehicle to amend and improve this bill. But when the senator from Massachusetts was elected as a Republican [Scott Brown], it threw a big kink in their plans. They decided the only way to get and remember, the goal here was not to fix problems that are besetting the American people in our health-care system. The goal was to get a bill to sign. The goal was a signing ceremony in the East Wing of the White House. The goal was for the president to sign a bill during his first term. It’s almost like they didn’t care what was in it. They didn’t care what the health care policy was. It can be as bad as you can possibly imagine. The drafting errors can be rampant throughout the entire bill. But we got a signing ceremony, by golly, and no other president of the United States has ever had that achievement before.
Our constituents sent us here to work in good faith on the tough issues. We each bring valuable and unique experiences and perspective to the legislative process. But all of this is squandered when a bill is drafted hastily and in secret. This is the most comprehensive legislation that any of us will ever work on. It will fundamentally impact one-sixth of our nations economy. It will literally affect the health care of every single American. While expedience can sometimes be a virtue, it can often lead to serious errors. This bill and the issue of health reform are too important to not take the time to get it right.
Despite promises of openness made by both the President and the majority leader, this process has been characterized by a lack of transparency from the start, Senator Burr said. Meetings have not been taking place in committee rooms or other open forums aired on C-SPAN. Instead, they have taken place behind closed doors, keeping most of Congress and the American people in the dark. Health care reform will affect every single American, and it is time we let the sunshine in and have an open debate about the contents of whatever deals are being made.