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Editorial: GOP's secret fast tracking of health care is irresponsible and hypocritical

The Dallas Morning News
Guest Editorial


After weeks of secrecy, GOP senators have finally unveiled a health care bill. Now we urge them to give the nation time to read and discuss the measure during extensive open hearings.

This shouldn't be too much to ask. The restructuring of one-sixth of the U.S. economy deserves more than a fleeting look at a draft.

Yet Senate Republicans say they want a vote before the July 4 recess. The only benefit of this breakneck timetable is political. GOP lawmakers can then tell constituents that they fulfilled a promise to repeal and replace Obamacare, and maybe the furor will die down over the holiday weekend.

Too much is at stake for such a cynical treatment of major legislation. An estimated 23 million people could lose their health care under the House plan, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. We don't expect CBO scoring on the Senate version until next week.

Insurance companies, consumer groups, doctors, hospitals, the millions of Americans whose future health care is at stake — and yes, the rest of the Senate — deserve more than a few days to evaluate this bill. Most Republicans, including some of the 13 lawmakers in the working group charged with drafting the Senate's version, have said they did not know what is in the bill before Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell unveiled it Thursday. How outlandish is that?

This entire process has been appalling and stunningly hypocritical. Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Flower Mound, recently defended that body's closed-door process to the Dallas Morning News editorial board as "the legacy of how it was passed in the first place," adding "we are walking [the Democrats'] process back."

Republicans chirped a different tune about transparency when Democrats drafted the Affordable Care Act in 2009. Then McConnell said: "We shouldn't try to do it in the dark. And whatever final bill is produced should be available to the American public and to the members of the Senate, certainly, for enough time to come to grips with it."

Back then McConnell also complained that Democrats passed the final legislation through the reconciliation process to skirt committee review and limit changes — the same process he is employing today.

But there are two huge differences this time. Democrats held extensive hearings and markups over the course of one year, with ample opportunities for Republican to seek compromises. Democratic leaders also negotiated extensively with insurance companies, hospitals, consumers and other stakeholders.

At least three Republican senators need to oppose the Senate bill to slow this high-speed train. Within hours of the bill's release, at least four, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, had voiced disapproval.

Government by secrecy and political expediency is an affront to all Americans. McConnell should listen to his own words from 2009 and let the nation debate the bill publicly.

What McConnell said then ...

"We shouldn't try to do it in the dark. And whatever final bill is produced should be available to the American public and to the members of the Senate, certainly, for enough time to come to grips with it ... And we are going to insist — and the American people are going to insist — that it be done in a transparent, a fair and open way."
— Sen. Mitch McConnell, during the debate over the Affordable Care Act, Oct. 2, 2009

... and what McConnell says now

"We've been dealing with this issue for seven years. It's not a new thing. We've spent a lot of time on it, all of us, both sides over the last seven years. We know a lot about the subject."
— McConnell, defending the lack of public input on the Senate's plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, June 13, 2017

— The Dallas Morning News, June 22