In theory, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should be very, very unhappy about the healthcare bill he’s trying to force through the Senate. The Congressional Budget Office hasn’t issued a score on it; most Republicans say they have no idea what’s in it; the Democrats literally can’t figure out where to find it; and there hasn’t been a single debate on the bill’s actual text.
The rushed legislation is expected to come out on Thursday, and the vote will likely be held next week, with no hearings on the bill in between.
All this despite the fact that McConnell has been clear in the past about the need to take it slow on healthcare. As he once said: “Fast-tracking a major legislative overhaul such as healthcare reform or a new national energy tax without the benefit of a full and transparent debate does a disservice to the American people.”
But a lot has changed since McConnell said that, back in 2009, when Democrats controlled Congress and were in the grips of passing the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Back then, the healthcare bill teetered on the verge of total collapse as it weathered a year of deliberations and more than 100 hearings before passing.
Here’s another funny thing McConnell said at the time: “Make no mistake: If the people who wrote this bill were proud of it, they wouldn’t be forcing this vote in the dead of night.”
Republicans saying Democrats forced Obamacare through Congress is one of their most baldfaced (and effective) political fictions. Or as The New Republic’s Brian Beutler neatly puts it: “The insistence or implication that Democrats did it first is fabricated to protect the Senate health care bill from being treated as the scandal it is.”
Indeed, plenty of McConnell’s colleagues who joined him in bemoaning the fictional secretive passing of Obamacare in 2009 have either been completely silent when their own party is actually trying to pass healthcare legislation in secret, or have raised only the most hollow of objections. None of them has done anything to stop the bill’s race to the finish line.
Let’s meet them.
John Cornyn, Texas
Here’s what the second-most powerful man in the Senate said back in 2010:
He now describes complaints about the current healthcare bill’s secrecy as fake news.
Unlike McConnell and Cornyn, who seem completely content with the secrecy of the process, not all Republican senators are happy that the bill was written behind closed doors by a committee of only 13 members of the Senate. Some unhappy Republicans are even saying so—although, it should be noted, they’re almost certainly going to vote for the bill anyway.
Which brings us to!
John McCain, Arizona
On Tuesday morning, McCain said “of course” he wasn’t happy about a bill, written in secret, that he still hasn’t been allowed to read. He’s not unhappy enough, apparently, to actually do something about it.
“We used to complain like hell when the Democrats ran the Affordable Care Act,” McCain told NBC News Tuesday morning.
He’s right! Here he is, in 2009, calling furtive legislation-passing a disgrace.
Later on Tuesday, McCain joked that he still hadn’t seen the bill—nor met “any American who has.”
“I’m sure the Russians have been able to hack in and gotten most of it,” he told reporters.
Richard Burr, North Carolina
Burr once launched a petition to demonstrate his anger at “closed door health care talks.”
But now, he says, the Republicans will likely get a whole week to debate the bill that will impact one-sixth of the American economy. “We’ll debate it for 20 hours,” he told Politico.
Lindsey Graham, South Carolina
The quippy straight-shooter once went on Meet the Press to call a rushed process to pass healthcare legislation “sleazy.”
That sort of thing “is the worst of Washington,” he said in 2010. “It isn’t transparent.”
Chuck Grassley, Iowa
Grassley once decried the very thought of passing a bill of such importance by a slim majority of votes: “Healthcare is a life-or-death issue for every person in America,” he told NPR in 2009. “It ought to be done on a broad, consensus basis, which we’ve always signaled is 70 to 80 votes.”
Later, in classic Grassley fashion, he critiqued President Barack Obama for what he described as a false sense of urgency:
Michael Enzi, Wyoming
“This is the most comprehensive legislation that any of us will ever work on,” Enzi said of the Affordable Care Act in 2009. “It will fundamentally impact one-sixth of our nation’s economy. It will literally affect the health care of every single American. While expedience can sometimes be a virtue, it can often lead to serious errors. This bill and the issue of health reform are too important to not take the time to get it right.”
Apparently, what he meant by that was 20 hours of floor debate.
Orrin Hatch, Utah
Hatch, who is on the 13-member committee that has actually seen the bill, could, any day now, do what he asked former Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid to do back in 2009 and put a stop to “secret backroom decisions” he so fervently hates!
Pat Roberts, Kansas
“Republicans fought against holding the healthcare debate behind closed doors,” Roberts said in his 2010 weekly Republican radio address, adding that he “fought against the Parliamentary gimmicks used to pass the bill against the wishes of a majority of Kansans and Americans.”
Flash-forward to 2017, when Roberts hasn’t commented on the fact that there isn’t a single state where the majority of people support the Republican healthcare bill that passed in the House.
John Thune, South Dakota
Here is Thune criticizing Obama for allowing a healthcare bill to be written “in secret”:
Luckily, at least one senator is prepared to laugh at the “touch of irony” of the situation. That’s Sen. Mike Rounds, R-South Dakota, who said as much Tuesday morning. (Rounds was elected in 2015, so he wasn’t in Congress when they passed Obamacare.)
“No question about it—I think there is [some irony here],” Rounds said, smiling, during an interview on CNN. “Look, if we could do this according to what we call traditional, regular business, I think that would be the preference of most of us within the United States Senate today—run it through a committee.”
“But doing that takes a huge amount of time,” he added.