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Rep. Chris Collins: we have to pass the bill so we can explain what’s in it

On MSNBC’s Brian Williams Thursday night, House Republican Chris Collins (R-NY) shared a message for his constituents on the Republican health bill: Trust Washington on this one.

Members of Congress in favor of the American Health Care Act say it is about keeping their promise of repealing Obamacare to their constituents. The problem is that the majority of their voters don’t like the Republican replacement bill either. As the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent pointed out, a recent Quinnipiac poll on AHCA found the majority of Trump’s base (white people without a college education, white men, and middle-age and older voters) all oppose the plan. To those Americans, Collins, a close ally of Trump, says it’s all “misunderstanding.”

“In my district, right now there is a lot of misunderstanding about what it is we are doing, and once we get it done, and then we can have the chance to really explain what’s in it,” Collins said on Thursday night in response to the plan’s low approval ratings.

Why is Collins telling his constituents to wait for an explanation until after the American Health Care Act passes? It might be because there are a lot of unknowns about the bill in its current form, as Vox’s Dara Lind explained.

Currently, politicians do not know how much the revised health care plan — with its last-minute amendment repealing “essential health benefits” — will cost, nor do they know how many people will be insured. It is also unknown whether or not the amendments to the bill, which were made in a last-ditch effort to garner support from the bill’s Republican critics, will survive the Senate’s Byrd Rule — a requirement that every provision in the bill has to have a direct impact on the federal budget. In other words, some amendments on “essential health benefits” regulations or the work requirement for able-bodied, working age Medicaid enrollees, might not make the cut in the Senate.

If Collins’s remarks sound familiar, that’s because they’re awfully similar to Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s remarks on Obamacare in 2010: “We have to pass the bill … so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy” — a moment conservatives quickly jumped on.

Meanwhile, we do know that the Congressional Budget Office’s first and second analyses of the proposed bill estimated that 24 million people would be left uninsured under the plan, and that premiums would continue to rise from between 15 and 20 percent for the next two years. We also know that, despite this ardent repeal effort, Obamacare is currently more popular than ever before.

Correction: Collins’ remarks were made on air with MSNBC’s Brian Williams, not Chris Matthews. We regret the error.