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Closed-Door Senate Health Care Talks17:09Download

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What’s happening in the U.S. Senate behind closed doors on health care?

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., flanked by Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., left, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, speaks at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Guests

Jennifer Rubin, conservative blogger. Writes the “Right Turn” blog for the Washington Post. (@JRubinBlogger)

Mary Agnes Carey, senior correspondent covering health care reform and federal health policy for Kaiser Health News. (@maryagnescarey)

From Tom's Reading List

Washington Post: A party afraid of doing its job in plain view — "Not since President Richard Nixon has the Republican Party tried so hard to conceal what it is doing from the voters. It reflects widespread contempt — starting with the president — for democracy and, frankly, abject fear that these politicians will be vilified for doing things the voters find repugnant.

POLITICO: Trump ‘all in’ on Senate Obamacare repeal -- "At a meeting with congressional leaders on Tuesday, Trump urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to follow through on an aggressive timetable for repealing the law in order to quickly turn to tax reform and help avoid a calamitous autumn full of key fiscal deadlines, according to multiple sources familiar with the meeting."

Segment Highlights

How does this compare or contrast with precedent when it comes to openness or closed doors on legislation of this enormous scale?

Mary Agnes Carey: "It is not unusual for members to be behind closed doors trying to hammer out what they want to do. We saw it in the creation of the Medicare prescription drug law in 2003. There were lots and lots of committee hearings on the Affordable Care Act when it was being drafted, and markups, and for action. But there were times Max Baucus, for example, who was head of the Senate Finance Committee then, was trying to get Republicans to come on. They kept calling it the 'Gang of Six,' and we spent hours in the hallway waiting for people come out and talk to them. So usually it's a hybrid. Closed door meetings, committee discussion and markups, floor action, the chambers, the Senate and the House often passed different versions. You have an open conference and there's lots of time. That's again what we call regular order to look and examine. But this is not where the Republicans in the Senate appear to be heading. The bill will come out before they go to the floor. They'll be lots of scrutiny, whether it matches Senate procedure. And of course the Congressional Budget Office, the official scorekeeper, will make their analysis of the bill known.

Is it fear, or is this just a tight timetable and difficult politics?

Jennifer Rubin: "Well if time were the only issue, that would be one thing, but obviously they put an artificial time limit on themselves. There's no reason why it has to be done by July. As you correctly identified, we had a process of 11 months, numerous hearings. The president traveled around the country talking about the details of health care. We had that very famous hearing where Republicans got to question the president in a sort of summit setting — none of that has gone on here, because I think there's a fundamental problem, and that is Republicans cannot agree among themselves."

"Their idea of what improvement would be doesn't jive with what the American people want."

Jennifer Rubin

On Republican approach to health care policy

Jennifer Rubin: "Their general approach is not one that the American people favor. American people — and this is including Republicans — overwhelmingly oppose cuts to Medicaid. They overwhelmingly oppose a rollback on the minimum list of benefits that are afforded. So I think their idea of what improvement would be doesn't jive with what the American people want. And so they're stuck, they're trapped.

How does it look? Can McConnell pull it out?

Mary Agnes Carey:  "It's one thing about Mitch McConnell. People will tell you he is a great listener. He talks to his caucus. He's very personable. He has an excellent track record of getting his caucus to go with him. So we'll see what happens. But I think that he will be pushing very hard. And if he can't pass it before the August break, Jennifer is right, he's going to have to make this calculation. How much time do I spend on health care? How do we get to tax reform, which is the bigger return in the 2018 midterms? All those things are in play.

This segment originally aired during this show.

This segment aired on June 14, 2017.

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