House Republicans are once again fast-tracking consideration of their ObamaCare replacement bill without knowing the full impact of the legislation they’ll vote on Thursday.
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is not expected to have completed its analysis detailing the effects of the latest changes to the legislation overhauling the nation’s healthcare system in time for the Thursday vote.
Leadership’s decision to press ahead with the floor action means lawmakers will be voting on the bill without updated figures from their nonpartisan scorekeeper on how many people would lose coverage under the bill or how much it would cost.
Some lawmakers acknowledged that it would be helpful to have an analysis, known as a “score,” from the CBO, but said they could not wait for it.
When asked why the vote would not wait for the score, Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) — the lead sponsor of a new amendment to the bill that might push it over the finish line — said, “Because I don’t expect it probably for a couple weeks.”
“I wish that we had it, all right?” Upton added. “I wish that we had had it in committee. I said so at the time.”
The lack of a score comes despite years of GOP attacks on Democrats for what Republicans argued was a rushed process that rammed through the Affordable Care Act in 2010.
The latest bill text was posted Wednesday, just one night before the vote.
Upton’s amendment adds $8 billion over five years aimed at helping people with pre-existing conditions afford their premiums in states that choose to repeal ObamaCare protections preventing sick people from being charged exorbitantly high premiums.
Many health policy experts doubt that $8 billion is enough money. And Upton himself said Wednesday that he doesn’t know for sure that it will be.
“Is it enough money? I don’t know,” Upton said. “That’s the question that I asked and was led to believe that $5 billion would be enough, which is why it’s $8 billion.”
He noted that “at some point, this will be scored by CBO,” and said that if the analysis finds there is not enough money, more could be added by the Senate or at another point.
The CBO also has not provided an analysis of the amendment authored by centrist Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) and Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) that lets states apply for waivers from ObamaCare provisions preventing insurers from charging sick people higher premiums and mandating minimum insurance coverage requirements so long as high-risk pools are offered.
When asked if there are concerns the process is being rushed without a CBO score and limited time to review late-breaking changes, Meadows said Republicans have waited long enough to fulfill a nearly decadelong campaign promise.
“We’ve been talking about repealing and replacing ObamaCare for seven years. That’s the first time that I’ve had anybody say that we rushed anything,” Meadows said.
At the same time, he conceded, “It’s a valid point.”
The CBO score of the underlying bill gave many moderates pause when it found that 24 million more people would become uninsured under the measure over 10 years.
Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) downplayed the notion that lawmakers didn’t have enough time to review the legislative text of the original bill or amendments authored by GOP Reps. Gary Palmer (Ala.), MacArthur and Upton.
“The bill has been out there for a while. I mean, the MacArthur amendment’s pretty short if you want to read it. The Palmer amendment’s pretty short. I assume this amendment that may be added before the final vote with the $8 billion will be short,” Harris, another Freedom Caucus member, said.
“Look, the bottom line is we’re going to deliver to the American public what we said, that premiums are actually going to go down,” he continued.
The Palmer amendment is four pages long, MacArthur’s is eight pages, and Upton’s is three pages. The original underlying bill was unveiled in March.
The lack of a CBO score isn’t the only sign of a markedly rushed process.
House GOP leaders gave themselves flexibility earlier this week to speed up consideration of the bill if they decided to bring it up for a vote.
The House voted along party lines in a Tuesday procedural vote to waive a rule requiring lawmakers to wait a day before considering a measure out of the Rules Committee, which determines how legislation is considered on the floor.
The move, known as “martial law,” is typically reserved for tight deadlines like avoiding an imminent government shutdown.
It’s highly unusual for leaders to invoke the procedure while trying to move legislation that doesn’t face a pressing need for passage, especially for something as far-reaching as healthcare reform.
If the rushed process sounds familiar, that’s because GOP leaders used the same tactics when they tried to bring the bill up for a vote in March.
As with this week, House Republicans voted to invoke martial law to speed up the floor vote. And GOP leaders also posted an amendment that would have repealed ObamaCare’s minimum insurance coverage requirements the night before they planned to vote on it.
GOP leaders ultimately canceled a vote when it became clear the legislation didn’t have the support to pass.
Thursday’s planned vote comes after years of Republicans mocking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who was the Speaker when ObamaCare passed, for saying, “We have to pass the [healthcare] bill so that you can find out what’s in it.”
Now, on the eve of the vote on the GOP plan, Pelosi is charging that Republicans are deliberately trying to conceal the impact of their proposal.
“Forcing a vote without a CBO score shows that Republicans are terrified of the public learning the full consequences of their plan to push Americans with pre-existing conditions into the cold,” Pelosi said.
“But tomorrow, House Republicans are going to tattoo this moral monstrosity to their foreheads, and the American people will hold them accountable.”