Just off the floor of the Senate, the hands on the famous Ohio Clock inch toward 12 midnight, the deadline for Congress to reach an agreement on funding the government, at the Capitol in Washington, September 30, 2013.
J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo

Lawmakers launch a ‘treasure hunt’ to find secret GOP health bill

House Republican leaders are well aware of the divisions within their ranks about health care policy, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and his team are plowing forward anyway. The Washington Post reported overnight that key House committees “are set to take up legislation to repeal and begin replacing the Affordable Care Act next week.”

The plan, the Post noted is for the GOP to “bulldoze” its way towards its goal.

And while such a strategy carries all kinds of risks, the more immediate challenge has less to do with arm-twisting and political lobbying, and more to do with finding the actual, physical piece of legislation.

We talked yesterday about the fact that Republicans wrote their “Obamacare” alternative behind closed doors, released it behind closed doors, and allowed GOP members to read it behind closed doors. But as Vox’s Sarah Kliff explained, funny things started happening yesterday when people showed up at those closed doors.
A Republican bill to replace Obamacare is reportedly hidden somewhere on Capitol Hill — and on Thursday morning, legislators and reporters ended up on a bipartisan wild goose chase to find it.

Democratic House members and Republican senators were not to be included in [the process to craft the GOP health care blueprint]. But by Thursday morning, they decided to take the matter into their own hands.

The draft legislation was rumored to be in H-157, a nondescript meeting room in the House of Representatives. When legislators arrived, Capitol Police were guarding the entrance, and dozens of reporters were waiting outside for the much-anticipated legislation.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) showed up, but wasn’t allowed in. Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), a member of the House committee that’ll soon consider the legislation, was told the bill was in a different room, but no one would tell him which one. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) left H-157 and declared, “There’s no bill in there.”

And that’s when the search began in earnest.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md) checked a variety of rooms – he wasn’t denied entry – but came up empty. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) arrived and joked that he’d even checked a nearby bathroom. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) said she was on “a treasure hunt” to find the elusive legislation. A Huffington Post report added:
The top Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), showed up with committee member Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and began holding court, bashing Republicans for the secrecy.

“The speaker has so many times said – he was, I guess, on Matt Lauer a couple days ago – he said this whole process was going to be transparent, there were going to be committee hearings, we’re going to get the bill in advance, and, now, you know, from what we’re hearing, they may go to markup on Wednesday,” Pallone said.

“During the ACA, we posted the bill online 30 days before the markup – we had over 70 hearings,” he continued, adding that Republicans seemed intent on holding a full committee markup without a hearing “and no regular order whatsoever.”
If it all sounds a bit crazy, that’s because it is. If the Speaker and the Republican leadership team  has a defense for handling the bill’s unveiling in such a bizarre way, they’ve kept it well hidden – just like the legislation itself.