For seven years, Republicans campaigned on a single message: Obamacare was rammed through Congress by power-hungry Democrats who rushed a hastily written bill riddled with backroom kickbacks.
But now, after vowing for years that the repeal process would be different, with regular order and plenty of public scrutiny, Republicans are doing the exact same thing — or worse — that they blasted Democrats for repeatedly. Here’s how:
1. No CBO score: With all the last-minute changes to Republicans’ original repeal plan, the Congressional Budget Office won’t have an estimate of the potential impact for several days, if not weeks. That means lawmakers voted on a bill with no idea whether it will still lead to 24 million people uninsured — like the first proposal — or cause premiums to skyrocket.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, then ranking member on the Budget Committee, railed against the prospect of voting without a CBO report during the Obamacare debate. “I don’t think we should pass bills that we haven’t read, that we don’t know what they cost,” Ryan said on MSNBC in 2009. And in fact, the Democratic-led House only voted on the bill after it received a CBO analysis.
2. Voting on a bill they haven’t read: Republicans blasted Democrats for years for voting on a bill without fully understanding the consequences. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s famous comment that lawmakers had “to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” was used as a rallying cry for angry Republicans who vowed to dismantle the law as soon as they could.
“Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager’s amendment? Hell no you haven’t!” then-House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a fiery floor speech shortly before the Affordable Care Act passed the House.
That was then, this is now. Republican leaders made significant last-minute changes to their bill Wednesday, adding an amendment with more money to cover patients with pre-existing conditions as a way to bring wary moderates on board. But some GOP lawmakers readily admitted they would back a bill that they hadn’t even read. “I don’t think any individual has read the whole bill,” Rep. Thomas Garrett (R-Va.) said on MSNBC Thursday. “That’s why we have staff.”
3. Congressional carve out: The initial compromise released last week by House Freedom Caucus Chairman Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and moderate Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-N.J.) included an exemption for lawmakers and their staff. House Democrats’ campaign arm quickly seized on the provision, saying Republicans’ repeal plan was so bad, even they didn’t want to be affected by it.
Republican negotiators said the provision was necessary to avoid running afoul of the Senate’s strict budget rules that would allow the bill to pass the upper chamber with just 51 votes. Still, some Republican rank-and-file members balked at the optics and threatened to withhold their support unless it was removed. The repeal plan still includes the exemption but the House also passed a separate bill Thursday that nixes it.
4. No committee hearings: When Republicans’ original repeal plan was voted out of multiple committees in March, Ryan and other GOP leaders boasted that they were bringing “regular order” back to Congress.
But this time is a different story. The revised repeal plan lawmakers voted on Thursday had significant changes and was considered on the House floor without a single hearing by the main committees of jurisdiction. The bill did go through the Rules Committee, which governs floor debate.
“A bill — finalized yesterday, has not been scored, amendments not allowed, and 3 hours final debate — should be viewed with caution,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) tweeted Thursday.
5. Partisan vote: House Republicans eagerly point out that Democrats passed Obamacare in 2010 without a single GOP vote. Democrats counter that one of the main tenets of Obamacare — the individual mandate — was inspired by Republican Gov. Mitt Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts.
Democrats also point out that as Obamacare moved through the committee process, several Republican amendments were considered and adopted. Senate Democrats also spent months negotiating with Republicans to try to win bipartisan support.
Republican leaders dispute the changes they made to the bill over the last two weeks are significant. “This bill has been online for a month, went through four committees, and the only change this week was a simple three-page amendment,” Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong said in a statement. “The truth is that Democrats aren’t concerned about process. They just want to protect their failing Obamacare law.”
But without the changes, including last week’s eight-page amendment from MacArthur and Meadows that targets fundamental pieces of Obamacare, Republicans wouldn’t have enough votes to pass their repeal.
“Rank hypocrisy [and] situational ethics,” House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in an interview. “It’s okay if we do it, it wasn’t okay if you do it. It’s phony and they know it’s phony.”