Rand Paul creates storm over access to ObamaCare draft bill

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on Thursday went off in search of a draft of the House Republicans’ plan to repeal and replace ObamaCare, creating a storm of controversy gleefully embraced by Democrats.

Paul complained that the ObamaCare bill was being kept in a “secret location.” He then walked over to the House side with a copy machine in tow to seek access to a room where he said the bill was being held.

His move quickly created a spectacle, with reporters gathering around Paul for an impromptu press conference.

“We want to see the bill. We have many objections,” Paul said outside of the room. 

“We’re here asking for a written copy of this because this should be an open and transparent process.”

Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, pushed back on accusations that the process is being kept secret.

“Reports that the Energy and Commerce Committee is doing anything other than the regular process of keeping its members up to speed on latest developments in its jurisdictions are false. We are continuing to work on drafting and refining legislative language to provide relief from a failing law,” Walden said in as statement.

“Simply put, Energy and Commerce majority members and staff are continuing to discuss and refine draft legislative language on issues under our committee’s jurisdiction.”

Paul started the controversy Thursday morning when he tweeted that the House GOP’s ObamaCare bill was being kept under “lock & key” in a “secure location.”

“This is unacceptable. This is the biggest issue before Congress and the American people right now.”

Paul has serious objections to multiple key elements of the House GOP plan, and is threatening to oppose the measure if it includes them.

His objections include the use of a refundable tax credit, which he calls a new entitlement program.

Multiple lawmakers have said the Energy and Commerce Committee is aiming to begin marking up a healthcare bill next week. GOP leaders say the legislation will be released when it is final.

Democrats, who are fighting the GOP’s repeal push at every turn, were quick Thursday to draw more attention to Paul’s search for the bill.

Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, arrived shortly after Paul to try to get into the room. After being told nothing was in there, he said that he had been told Republican lawmakers could go there to see the bill, and the GOP must have moved the bill. 

Pallone then entered Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) office across the hall, only to be told to check with Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.).

“It’s awful because we gave them so much notice [when ObamaCare was passed], 30 days before we had a markup or hearing, it was posted online,” Pallone told reporters crammed into an elevator with him as he made his way to the Rayburn office building to visit Walden’s office. 

“I think they’re afraid,” he said of Republicans’ move not to release the bill yet. “I think they’re afraid it will show that it really doesn’t cover most of the people that received coverage under the Affordable Care Act.” 

According to reports, a draft of the bill is available somewhere in the Capitol for members of the Energy and Commerce Committee to review. 

Some Republicans have taken issue with the process, saying everyone should be able to read the bill. 

Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) told reporters that a staffer in the room told him it was actually the site of a meeting with governors and that the ObamaCare repeal bill was not in the room.

“I walked in and they said it’s not that meeting; they said you’ve got the wrong room,” he said. 

“I want to read the bill because it speaks to one-sixth of our nation’s economy.”

– Peter Sullivan contributed.

– Updated at 1:30 p.m.

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