Several Senate Republicans have complained about the secret nature of their conference's effort to craft the new healthcare bill, a draft of which was released today.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., has actually tried to do something about it.
Yesterday, Sen. Paul reintroduced his "Read the Bills" resolution. The proposal would alter Senate rules to ensure that both senators and the public have time to read all bills and resolutions. The idea is a bit unique: for every twenty pages in length, they must be filed one day ahead of formal consideration. This would give legislators more time to sift through complex language and provisions.
"Legislation is too often shoved through Congress without proper hearings, amendments, or debate, as the secrecy surrounding the Senate's health care bill and the pressure to vote for it with little time to fully evaluate the proposal once again remind us," Sen. Paul said in a press release yesterday.
The resolution would leave an exception for emergency situations, but the senator's motivation is clear: make the legislative process less rushed and more deliberative.
Discomfort about the present bill's drafting hearkens back to the 2010 passage of Obamacare, when Republicans derided Democrats for their misuse of legislative processes. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., famously said, "Democrats on Capitol Hill are working behind the scenes on a plan aimed at jamming this massive health spending bill through Congress against the clear wishes of an unsuspecting public."
But in 2010, ACA draft text had been made public and underwent several committee debates long before any votes took place. Considering the circumstances surrounding this Republican bill – that so many GOP senators were essentially left out of the drafting process and that leadership wants to have a vote by July recess (in two weeks) – it is clear that this process has been even more secretive than that of Democrats in 2010.
Irony, some may call this, but a better term is hypocrisy.
Republicans are under pressure to do what their voters want them to do, which is entirely reasonable. But the effort to pass a bill this quickly is as much a move to save political face as it is to solve the actual problems. As they work to keep campaign promises, they do damage to their own credibility by doing themselves that which they condemned in others. Republicans need "Read the Bills" as a check on themselves.