When the U.S. House finally sent the Republicans' American Health Care Act to the Senate on May 4, consensus was that it was dead on arrival. One reason, as even President Donald Trump this week acknowledged — six weeks after holding a Rose Garden ceremony to celebrate it — is that the House bill is "mean."
It turns out the bill wasn't DOA; it was only sleeping.
Behind closed doors, a group of 13 GOP senators has all but completed work on a Senate substitute. No one outside the Senate leadership knows details, including its cost. No public hearings on it are scheduled. But Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is leaning toward sending it over to the Congressional Budget Office for a quick analysis and then bringing it to a vote before the Senate adjourns for the July 4th holiday.
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. It defies everything that various GOP senators said last month.
"At the end of the day, this is too important to get wrong," said Richard Burr of North Carolina.
"I don't think this gets better over time," said Roy Blunt of Missouri.
"This is not like fine wine," said Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. "It doesn't get better with age."
McConnell is hoping Americans won't notice. He's using parliamentary tricks to move the bill quickly. It's shameful, but McConnell is the guy who cheated Merrick Garland out of a Supreme Court seat, so shame is not a problem for him.
The Affordable Care Act that the Republicans propose to repeal and replace was a product of 14 months of hearings and amendments. It's different now. "We have no idea what's being proposed," Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., complained last week. "There's a group of guys in a backroom somewhere making these decisions."
The House bill, once the CBO scored it, was projected to eliminate health care coverage for 23 million Americans and spend the savings on $600 billion in tax cuts, predominantly for wealthy taxpayers. It would cut Medicaid for the poor, the disabled and seniors in nursing homes. It would eliminate coverage for many pre-existing conditions.
Americans hated it. To use Trump's description, it was mean. In the Kaiser Health Tracking poll, only 8 percent said they wanted it passed.
The secret Senate version reportedly preserves most of the mean stuff but stretches out the implementation from three years to as many as seven. When the CBO score comes in, many if not most of those 23 million who would lose insurance under the House bill will lose it under the Senate bill.
No wonder they're keeping it quiet. This bill taints everyone who touches it.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST LOUIS POST DISPATCH