In the hours of debate leading up to the Senate vote to repeal Obamacare on Wednesday, Democrats did everything they could to shame Republicans, calling the GOP efforts “reckless,” “bad,” “cruel,” and “immoral.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took his criticism in another direction: calling out Republicans for their secretive process and the lack of hearings on the three bills up for a vote on Wednesday afternoon.
At the microphone, Sanders sarcastically asked his colleague Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) how many hearings Republican senators had held to analyze the economic impact of the three bills they are considering.
“Were there five, 10?” Sanders asked. “How many hearings were there on this enormously complicated and important issue?”
Wyden responded, “My colleague is being logical. … We would automatically assume that on a matter like this — we are talking about a sixth of the American economy — the Senate Finance Committee would have hearings. There have been no hearings.”
“No hearings!” Sanders said. “No hearings on a bill that impacts a sixth of the American economy and every single American.”
As Vox’s Sarah Kliff has pointed out, congressional Democrats held hundreds of hearings as they crafted the Affordable Care Act. Congressional Republicans, on the other hand, have focused instead on getting enough party votes to repeal Obamacare without much input from anyone else. They have also tried to ram through legislation without giving the Congressional Budget Office much time to analyze the potential impacts. When the CBO did score a few versions of their bills, many lawmakers — and the White House — discredited the office’s work. The result is that many senators appear poised to vote on bills without understanding what the impact of each bill would be if passed into law.
Sanders and Wyden criticized this process in their exchange and then went on to allege that Republicans willfully ignored pleas from medical and hospital associations about the potential impact of leaving millions of people without health care coverage.
Their exchange continued:
SANDERS: Obviously, before my Republican colleagues would go forward on radical legislation like this — that would throw some 32 million Americans off the health insurance they had — they obviously have consulted with doctors and hospitals. What kind of testimony did the doctors make on this bill, or the hospital administrators make?
WYDEN: I can tell my colleague … I have actually made public the overwhelming opposition from providers on this, so in effect, providers and patients are standing together in opposition to this.
SANDERS: Right, so if my understanding is correct, and I’m quite sure it is, the American Medical Association — not one of the great progressive groups in America, but the group that represents the physicians in this country: a) they have not been able to make testimony, but b) what is their view on this legislation? What do the doctors of America feel about this important legislation?
WYDEN: They are opposed … and I think it is particularly important to see this provider-patient partnership that in this time is saying the patients come first and this bill hurts patients.