On Tuesday afternoon, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters, "I expect to have a discussion draft on Thursday, and we will go to the bill, obviously, once we get a CBO score. Likely next week."
That follows the wave of frustration expressed by Democrats on the Senate floor last night.
Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren said the phone has been ringing off the hook in her office, with more than a thousand constituent calls from people who want to know about the bill.
"Thirteen men are locked away in a secret room behind closed doors writing a secret plan to trade their health insurance for tax cuts that will go to the wealthiest Americans in this country. The bill the Republicans are negotiating behind closed doors isn't a health care bill. It's a tax cut for billionaires bill. And it's paid for by cutting health care for tens of millions of other Americans," Warren said.
Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey advocated for letting senators see the bill before voting on it. But he continued, "The majority just won't let that happen. They're keeping the bill hidden. They don't plan to make it public until the very last minute, with less than a day to view it before we vote upon it. That will be catastrophic for those families."
McConnell swatted away the Democratic senators' concerns, saying that health care has always been a highly partisan issue. He referred back to the contentious passage of Obamacare in 2010.
McConnell continued, "Obamacare continues to collapse. Republicans are working to implement better ideas. Democrats are trying to prevent Congress from acting. I regret that Democrats announced their intention early on that they didn't want to be part of a serious bipartisan process to move past the failures of this law. Congress still has a responsibility to act."
What's going on here is virtually unprecedented. The Senate's own historian says “[N]ot since the years before World War I has the Senate taken such a partisan, closed-door approach to major legislation.” That is why Sen. Chris Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, begged for more transparency, saying the integrity of the Senate itself is at stake.
Murphy asked, "Why are my constituents not allowed to see the details of what's about to happen to their lives? Why are only a select group of Americans able to have a voice inside that room? Why are the people of Connecticut going to get, like, three minutes to look at this bill once it hits the Senate floor? My constituents are Americans just like the constituents in Republican states are Americans. They deserve to know what's about to happen to them. You're breaking the Senate. And it won't get put back together that easily. These are tough questions, they're partisan questions, but that doesn't mean that there isn't at least an obligation to try to find common ground."
And New York Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer asked, "Why can't we join together, a hundred strong, in the Senate chamber, no press, just discuss our views with one another, and maybe something bipartisan and helpful could come out of this, instead of this dark, hidden process?"
McConnell responded, "I would just say to my friend, we're going to have a meeting of all the senators right here on the Senate floor, all 100 of us, with an unlimited amendment process. So there'll be no...failure of opportunity for anybody to offer and amendment to get a vote on it to try to change the law. That's the way reconciliation works."
Schumer's reply? "Leader has said no, I get it."
This article was originally published on June 20, 2017.