Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) arrives in the Capitol for the Senate Republicans' policy luncheon on June 28, 2016 in Washington, D.C.
Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call/Getty

Senator: GOP is writing health care bill in secret, without experts

Later today, the Congressional Budget Office will release its report on the final House Republican health care plan, which passed the lower chamber a few weeks ago. That CBO “score” will initiate a new round of policymaking in the Senate, where the chamber’s health care working group – 13 conservative white guys – have been quietly crafting their own legislation.

In fact, “quietly” is a polite way of describing the Senate process. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has insisted on as much secrecy as he can muster, and he’s made a deliberate decision to exclude all Senate Democrats – 48% of the chamber, representing more than 50% of the country – from the deliberations. (There is some irony to the fact that Donald Trump is looking for ways to force Democrats to the negotiating table, while GOP leaders block Dems from reaching that table.)

Making matters quite a bit worse, one Republican senator shed new light on just how ridiculous his party’s process has become. The HuffPost reported:
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) on Tuesday unexpectedly torched his party’s process for crafting an Obamacare repeal bill behind closed doors.

“It’s a very awkward process, at best,” he told reporters. “There are no experts. There’s no actuarials…. Typically, in a hearing, you’d have people coming in and you’d also have the media opining about if a hearing took place, and X came in and made comments.”
The Tennessee Republican reportedly added that a public process generally helps “shape policy.”

Imagine that.

By one account, the GOP’s health care working group did receive some information yesterday from actuaries, but the discussion was held behind closed doors, and only the 13 Republican members of the working group were allowed to participate in the discussion.

Not to put too fine a point on this, but the GOP’s approach isn’t how legislating in the United States is supposed to work. What Bob Corker described is a great example of a post-policy party – trying to write a bill in the dark with little to no input from subject-matter experts, authorities, or stakeholders – but it’s a pretty ridiculous way to craft life-or-death legislation affecting one-sixth of the world’s largest economy.

Perhaps Republican lawmakers need a refresher. When writing legislation of this significance, senators are supposed to schedule hearings, invite knowledgeable witnesses, listen to testimony, host bipartisan debate, and welcome scrutiny from the public and the media in an open process. It’s a little something civics nerds might call “American legislating.”

For all the talk about Donald Trump’s antics being at odds with the political norms of the United States, it’s worth pausing to remember that his pals on Capitol Hill made a right turn at normal quite a while ago, and they’re not looking back.

Bob Corker, Health Care, Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans

Senator: GOP is writing health care bill in secret, without experts