There have been many, many, oh so many lies* put out by the GOP about Obamacare over the years. In a previous post I laid out a few of them, just to give a tiny example of what’s been floating around out there for years. But last week, with the GOP finally revealing its Obamacare replacement bill and beginning the process of passing it through Congress, one particular lie has really taken the spotlight.
And that is the idea that Obamacare was rushed through congress, that it was a secret bill jammed through by Democrats before the American people could even get a chance to see what was in it. This lie has been around ever since Obamacare originally passed, but Republicans seem to be doubling down on it now in order to somehow convince us – and themselves – that their rushed and secretive process for devising and attempting to pass the current bill is defensible.
I touched on this briefly in “You Down With GOP? (Part 1)” (See item #5), but since I wrote that post the GOP dissembling and defensiveness on this topic has been dialed up to 11. This past week they have repeatedly invoked the supposedly rushed passage of Obamacare up to try to contrast it with their process, which they claim is slow and deliberate and open. But their story about Obamacare and their description of their own current process are both 180 degrees from the truth.
The legislative process for devising and passing Obamacare was actually unusually long and deliberate and transparent. The process took more than a year, with dozens of bipartisan committee meetings and public hearings. The final bill was available to the public online for more than 30 days before it was voted on. Before the first markup of the House bill (comparable to what the GOP did with their bill last week), the Democrats’ bill had gone through a draft version, numerous hearings and debates and had a preliminary score from the CBO. (The CBO score is an analysis by a non-partisan federal agency that estimates how much the bill will cost and how many people will gain/lose insurance as a result of the bill). That first round of work alone took the Democrats several months. Compare that to the two days it took the GOP to go from publicly revealing their bill on Monday to voting on it Wednesday night.
The Democrats held numerous bipartisan roundtables with outside experts like doctors and insurance executives. They also had numerous public hearings to discuss the bill. Democrats also spent months meeting with Republicans in committee meetings trying to get them to join onto the bill. They accepted more than 160 Republican amendments to the Senate bill. They held lengthy – near record — debates before voting on their bills. And before each round of voting in both the House and the Senate, Democrats had a score from the CBO upon which to base their voting decision.
In contrast, the GOP bill was hidden even from most members of the GOP until just this past Monday, when the bill was revealed to the public. Committee members than began voting on it on Wednesday, only two days later. There were no public hearings, no discussion, no time to meet with constituents, and no CBO score to indicate how much the bill would cost or how many would lose insurance as a result.** It has now passed out of two committees, and Party leaders are rushing to have the whole House vote on the bill within weeks.
Yet, Sean Spicer falsely compared the GOP process favorably to the Democrats’ process at his press briefings on two different days last week. At the first of those two briefings, he came back to it three different times during the same briefing, making the same argument each time that unlike the Democrats’ rushed, secretive process, the Republicans were “going through the process” the correct way.” Here’s just a portion of what he said:
And again, the big difference that’s here is, instead of us jamming a bill down Congress, and not allowing the American people to read it until it is passed, as was done with Obamacare with then-Speaker Pelosi, is that this bill is out in the open for every single person in the world to read. It is open for people to let their member of Congress share their thoughts, share their ideas, and it’s done out in the open.
I think that is a vastly different approach with how this is going about than the last time, and that makes a big difference with the approach. And it gives people an opportunity through the process, what they call regular order, to have input on this.
This was at his Wednesday afternoon briefing. That night the Republican committees began voting on the bill. The bill had only been online for the public to view it since Tuesday evening. I don’t know about you, but to me, that doesn’t seem like a whole lot of time for “the American people” to read the bill and share their input with their Congress members, or even for Congressmembers to read it (remember the bill was hidden away from most of them until Monday) and share input with their leaders. Yet Thursday afternoon at his press briefing, Spicer was right back out there making the same false comparison again, talking about how the Democrats “rushed it so quick” and “jammed it through”.
But this talk isn’t just coming from the White House’s representatives. Rep. Kevin Brady, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee*** – one of the two committees that had a marathon session Wednesday night so they could get the bill voted on right away – also claimed that Obamacare “passed in the dark of night” as a way of intimating that it was done secretively and out of sight of the public, despite the year’s worth of public discussion.
But perhaps the worst culprit of all is the Party’s leader in the House, Speaker Paul Ryan. Paul Ryan made one of these comparisons in a snide aside when he took his turn to try to sell the bill at a press conference on Tuesday: “We didn’t write this bill in my office on Christmas Eve like Harry Reid.” (the bill wasn’t written in Harry Reid’s office on Christmas Eve, as detailed above).
Then. a few days later, after the bill had been rushed through two committee votes, Ryan claimed that the GOP was moving the bill “through regular order” which basically means following normal House procedure, as opposed to rushing it through. His explanation for this was that the GOP began the process more than a year ago. I’m not even sure what that means, since again, no one saw a bill from them until just last Monday, but I can only guess that his theory is that because – behind the scenes – they were formulating a plan sort of similar to this one a year ago, that counts as starting the process.
But a whole new session of Congress started this January, so even if they had formally started the legislative process last year (which they did not) the whole thing would have had to start over in January with the new Congress. So this claim is not just a lie, it’s insulting to the intelligence of the American people that he expects us to buy it. That’s how little respect he has for us.
Then, it got even worse, when he went on Face the Nation on Sunday and tried to defend the rushed pace by saying that the GOP had been talking about “repeal and replace” for seven years now, so it’s not rushed for them to come out with the bill and vote on it all in a two day span, before anyone even has time to read it. Apparently those seven years they’ve been chanting the mantra “repeal and replace” should have been plenty of time for all of us to figure out what they had planned for us.
It’s true, they’ve been promising to repeal and replace Obamacare for seven years. And they took a whole lot of repeal votes in those years, but in that entire time they never actually produced a replacement plan. Several of the members did come up with their own plans during that time, but never once over those seven years did the Party coalesce around a single plan so that the American people could get an idea of what the GOP replacement plan would entail. So now, they gave the American people two days to absorb their plan before they started voting on it. And again, they haven’t even had enough time to get a CBO analysis of the bill to tell us (or them) how much the bill will cost or how many people will lose insurance. And now Paul Ryan has the nerve to say that they’re not rushing because they’ve been “working on this” for seven years.
And these are just a few of many examples this week. If you turned on a cable news channel at any random moment last week, you’d have been likely to find a Republican member of Congress “explaining” about how they were taking the time to do it right and not jam the bill through like Democrats did with Obamacare.
These Republican lies are getting old, really old by now. They not only make it impossible to have a serious conversation about trying to solve the very real problems with our health care system, they show a serious lack of respect for us, the American people. But the most immediate problem – for us and for the GOP – is that the particular lie I talked about here reveals a Party that doth protest too much about a rushed, secretive and badly informed attempt to “repeal and replace” a health care bill that so many Americans so urgently depend on. And that can’t portend anything good.
*Yes, I am using the word “lie” here, and I know it sounds harsh. But there really is no more appropriate word for the many tall tales the GOP has been spreading for years now, because all of these stories have been debunked over & over & over again, yet Republicans keep right on repeating them anyway, knowing full well they’re false. And I think people – the media, Democrats, whoever – haven’t wanted to come right out and call them lies because it sounds so rude. But I also think that’s what’s allowed the lies to fester for so long. The lies have been so incredibly brazen, while the response has been anything but.
**Though the GOP has not gotten a CBO score of their plan, several outside groups have analyzed the plan, and the results are not good. Those analyses show the GOP plan would cause anywhere from 4million – 15 million people to lose insurance. Insurance premiums and other out-of pocket costs would significantly increase, especially for those in the 50-64 age range and people living in rural areas. And as for the cost to the government, there hasn’t been much analysis, but the plan repeals all of the bills taxes but one (which is delayed till 2025) and adds no new mechanisms to pay for it. You don’t need to be an expert to do the math on that.
***The Ways and Means Committee is the committee that deal with taxes.