By Molly K. Hooper - 11/04/09 12:34 AM EST
After months of delays in the release of the bill, Republicans were playing defense on Tuesday after the measure was being e-mailed around Capitol Hill and K Street.
According to members of the Republican Conference, rank-and-file lawmakers hadn’t even seen a finished copy of the bill at their closed-door morning meeting when word spread that it was all over town.
A top-ranking GOP lawmaker indicated that Boehner was upset that the document was leaked earlier in the day to various interest groups and lobbying shops downtown.
“It was a very unauthorized leak,” the member told The Hill, noting that the GOP aides were still in discussions with staffers at the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).
On Tuesday afternoon, GOP Conference Chairman Mike Pence (Ind.) had to tell reporters that the document was not, in fact, the final text of their bill.
“The Republican alternative is still a work in progress, and we’re putting the finishing touches on our legislation as we speak,” Pence said hours after media outlets, including The Hill, posted copies of the document online.
Pence made the statement at an event to commemorate the opening of a “GOP reading room” where members and the press could sit and read the Democratic bill.
Highlighters, Post-its and bill text from the 1,990-page Democratic measure were displayed on a long table.
Late Tuesday, GOP leadership offices sent out a “one-page summary” of the yet-to-be-officially scored bill, but they still were not prepared to release a copy of the measure, which has been months in the making.
Over the past few days, Boehner has slowly released details of the plan, which is focused on reducing health insurance premiums and overall healthcare costs, and not on providing healthcare to all Americans.
The bill seeks to end “junk lawsuits,” establish “universal access programs to guarantee access to affordable care for those with pre-existing conditions” and encourage the creation of small-business health plans, according to the white paper.
It is unclear as to when they will have a price tag for their bill, however.
Democrats were quick to pounce on the details contained in the 230-page document, setting up a counter “reading room” for their members to review the leaked bill.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) denounced the Republican plan, picking the relatively short alternative apart.
Hoyer said that their policy “would effectively lead to cherry-picking and discrimination against sicker Americans.”
The GOP document was intended to remain under wraps until the Democrats released their “manager’s amendment” to the sweeping healthcare bill that they introduced last Thursday.