We’ve mentioned a couple of times now that the R’s are doing everything they can to rush TrumpDon’tCare through the House before all the wingnuts decide it’s not cruel enough to poors. Thursday’s hurried votes to advance the two bills that make up the “American Health Care Act” did at least come after frenzied daylong “markup” sessions (no, not frenzied makeout sessions, pay attention) during which Republicans on two House committees — Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce — got a chance to weigh in on the plan and make it a lot better for the American People. Or at least for Republicans who want a fig leaf with “I repealed Obamacare!” scrawled on it in magic marker.
Buzzfeed’s Paul McLeod gives us a sense of the excitement in the Energy and Commerce committee:
What started Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. as a lively ideological debate about the future of American health care turned into a grueling battle of attrition after about 12 hours. Hypothetical constituents were invented, given names and personalities, and diagnosed with debilitating diseases.
“We’re almost to the tweeting hour,” one Democrat said as midnight approached.
About those “names and personalities” of nonexistent constituents, that all started with Rep. Steve Scalise from Louisiana, who started talking about hypothetical folks named “Pamela” and “Jeff,” whose basic liberties are endangered because the ACA won’t let them purchase cheap, shitty insurance that doesn’t really cover much of anything:
It might make for a hell of a Confederacy of Dunces fanfic, but we’re not sure that’s any way to determine healthcare policy.
McLeod indicates the debate was sometimes less than lively:
Chairman Greg Walden speculated it may have been the longest continual markup session in the committee’s history. At times there were pitched arguments and at other times near silence, as members of Congress stared at their phones lifelessly while another colleague spoke.
At one point, around 2:30 AM, Missouri Rep. Billy Long insisted Planned Parenthood had to be defunded in order to “protect the unborn miniature women.” We’ll assume Long knows the Hyde Amendment already forbids federal funding of abortion, so he just enjoys lying. Or perhaps he’s a fan of radio evangelist Kevin Swanson’s theory that birth control pills leave women’s innards studded with hundreds of tiny dead babbies.
Democrats, with no other tactics available to them but to deploy all the parliamentary tricks they could think of to slow things down, did exactly that. This may have been at least a little cathartic fun, considering how Republicans did the same thing back when the ACA was being drafted. They pointed out that the Congressional Budget Office hasn’t yet scored the proposal (an early estimate by the Brookings Institution, based on previous CBO evaluations of other attempts to gut the ACA, predicts the plan could result in 15 million people losing health coverage), and did everything possible to slow debate. An amendment to rename the legislation the “Republican Pay More For Less Care Act,” McLeod notes, took up “three, increasingly surreal hours” of debate. Over in Ways and Means, Texas Democrat Lloyd Doggett introduced a more serious amendment to delay markup until next week, when presumably the CBO scoring would be finished, but it was quickly voted down. Ways and Means won the quickest-vote contest, voting at 4:30 AM Thursday to move their part of the legislation to the Budget Committee, while the Dems in Energy and Commerce held out until 2 PM, after which their chunk was passed on a party-line vote.
There was a bit of last-minute excitement before that vote, though: Texas Republican Joe Barton introduced, then withdrew, an amendment that would have ended the ACA’s Medicaid expansion — and related federal funding to the states — even earlier than the 2020 cutoff in the original bill, because darn it, why shouldn’t the poors hurry up and get a job or die a lot sooner? Barton and co-sponsor Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee plan to bring it back during floor debate, thank goodness.
After all that intense work and debate, what was achieved? Energy and Commerce passed a single amendment to their bill, clearing up a bit of a technicality:
Still, now that the two bills that make up TrumpDoesn’tGiveTwoShitsCare have had a full airing in the House, they’re ready for Prime Time. Let’s close with this fun interview of New Jersey Republican Leonard Lance, in which Chris Hayes tries and tries and tries to get Lance to acknowledge there hasn’t been a single public hearing, with witness testimony, on the actual bills:
Incredibly, Rep. Lance was so proud of his bumbling appearance on MSNBC that he put the video up on his own YouTube channel — at least until MSNBC took it down, grrr — even though he repeatedly avoided giving a straight answer (“we’ve had a series of hearings over the last several years on the Affordable Care Act”) and had no idea how many people in his district have insurance through the exchanges — he guessed about 5,000 people, but Hayes informed him the Kaiser Family Foundation puts the number at about 20,000. But really, what difference does being off by a factor of four make when they’re all wildly in favor of paying a lot more for insurance, or losing their coverage altogether? Gotta do the people’s will, you know, even though now that the proposal is out, Lance’s constituents won’t have a chance to let him know what they think of it.
So hurrah! The system works! No, don’t be silly, no one said it works for YOU.
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