In the runup to the Senate’s release of a revised health bill Thursday, updates of any changes and developments came from lobbyists.
Vox published a leaked outline of the new draft Thursday morning, obtained by a lobbyist and confirmed by two other health care industry sources.
But Republicans senators — even those who are supposed to be won over by this revised health bill — still seemed be in the dark. Conn Carroll, communications director for Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), tweeted that his office had not seen any of the summaries published about the Better Care Reconciliation Act.
Lots of reporters seem to have a detailed summary of the bill from K Street sources that none of our staff have seen.— Conn Carroll (@conncarroll) July 13, 2017
This has become a continuing trend with the Republican health bills. In late June, as Senate Republican leadership prepared to release the original version of the BCRA, most senators had no clue what direction the health care bill was supposed to take.
At the time, every leak was attributed to lobbyists. One crucial vote, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), was asked what she thought of the bill. She responded: “I am not a reporter, and I am not a lobbyist, so I’ve seen nothing.”
Again on Wednesday, one day before the Senate’s revised bill is expected to drop, Murkowski expressed frustration with the negotiations, according to reporting from the Alaska Dispatch News:
Reporters asked how a lunchtime Republican caucus meeting went as Murkowski waited for an elevator to arrive Tuesday afternoon. "Icky," she responded, a word that she quickly noted was not "very senatorial." But she fell short in her immediate search for another descriptor.
"Any progress made on issues that are important to you for the health care bill?" another reporter called out as the doors opened behind her. She paused. "No."
The same thing happened in the House just five months ago, when the majority of Republican Congress members first became acquainted with the original AHCA on the pages of Politico.
It’s a process that has infuriated many Republicans, who have decried the secret and speedy strategy their leadership has decided to take on with health care. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told me his game plan would have been “dramatically different.”
“We would be having debate on the floor, we would be having amendments, we would be having discussion,” McCain said, observing what has been an extraordinarily closed legislative process around health reform.
Whether or not these frustrations will prompt senators to withhold their votes until the bill goes through due process, however, remains to be seen. So far, it doesn’t seem likely.