GOP rushes to vote without knowing full impact of healthcare plan

Greg Nash

“Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager’s amendment? Hell no, you haven’t!”

That was then-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) in 2010 in the heat of the debate over ObamaCare.

Seven years later, Democrats could easily turn those words around on Republicans for the strategy they’re using to repeal and replace the same law Boehner railed against. 

{mosads}House Republicans are moving forward with a vote Friday on their ObamaCare replacement bill even after making significant changes the night before, and without a Congressional Budget Office analysis of those changes.  

“We haven’t seen the final bill and won’t have a @USCBO score on the latest version before a vote,” Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (Md.) tweeted Thursday night. “This is not regular order, @SpeakerRyan.”

“We must have the opportunity to read and understand the final bill before we vote. It’s irresponsible to do otherwise,” added conservative Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) in a tweet Thursday night.

Republicans on Thursday night announced that they would make some significant changes to the bill, known as the American Health Care Act, with the intention of winning over conservatives.

The most prominent of those changes is to repeal ObamaCare’s essential health benefits, which mandate which health services an insurance plan must cover, including areas like mental health, prescription drugs, and maternity care. The GOP will also add $15 billion to a “stability fund” to the bill in order to provide mental health and maternity coverage, which will be paid for by keeping ObamaCare’s 0.9 percent Medicare tax on high earners for six years.

Repealing the essential health benefits could have far-reaching consequences for the legislation and for the U.S. healthcare system, but the CBO will not have time to release an analysis of the change before the vote on Friday.

“With these amendments, no,” House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) told reporters Thursday night when asked if there would be a new CBO report.

He defended moving forward, though.

“We will continue to ask the CBO for a score,” Brady said. “We anticipate that they’ll have to look at the coverage issues. The stability fund is pretty straightforward so we don’t anticipate major changes that way.”

Asked about releasing changes the night before the vote, Brady pointed to comments from White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, who said President Trump is finished negotiating and is threatening to leave ObamaCare in place if the bill doesn’t pass Friday.

“We’ve been discussing these solutions with members for several days now and so has President Trump,” Brady said. “Mr. Mulvaney made it clear the president is done negotiating, that this is a conservative package that lowers healthcare costs, and so at his request and the leadership’s, we’re moving forward with the vote tomorrow.”

Some Republicans downplayed the importance of a full nonpartisan analysis of the bill’s effects before voting on it.

“I know this will all make the deficit better,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a leadership ally.

Pressed on how he knows that if there’s no CBO score, Cole said: “Because it doesn’t take the CBO — because I know the range, what the initial CBO score was, and I know the range of changes that they’re talking about.”

Members of the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus who have been opposed to the legislation say leadership shouldn’t rush the process.

“We’ve been saying for a while that we need to slow down,” said Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho). “Let’s get it right. It’s better to get it right than to get it fast.”

The House voted late Thursday night to fast-track consideration of the GOP healthcare plan.

The procedure approved on a largely party-line vote waives a House rule that requires lawmakers to wait a day before considering a measure produced out of the Rules Committee, which determines parameters for how legislation is considered on the floor.

That means the Rules Committee will be able to tack on an amendment, known as a “manager’s amendment,” to the repeal-and-replace bill with a litany of changes that haven’t all had time to be reviewed by the CBO.

Four Republicans broke with their party to oppose adoption of the waiver: Reps. Amash, Thomas Massie (Ky.), Walter Jones (N.C.) and David Young (Iowa). All four have come out against the legislation.

The House Rules Committee is expected to meet early Friday morning to tack on the last-minute changes to the legislation. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Thursday night the floor vote on passage of the bill could wrap up by the afternoon.

Tags Boehner John Boehner Justin Amash Kevin Brady
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