U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr mitch mcconnell...
U.S. Department of Agriculture / Flickr

The drafting of the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill has Republicans throwing away more than a century of Senate protocol.

Don Ritchie, historian emeritus of the Senate, said not since the years before World War I has the Senate taken such a partisan, closed-door approach to major legislation.

But it’s going to get worse. In order to get the bill through, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell intends to cut off all debate, prevent any amendments, and refuse any discussion. It’s a combination that has never been used before. It’s a genuinely unprecedented shutdown of the Senate. For anyone who claimed to be concerned over the way previous Republican bills were pushed, it might seem that this institution-flattening excercise in power would be a deal-breaker … or maybe not.

In addition to a process that’s ripping up the Senate rules …

  • There have been no public hearings.
  • There is no CBO score.
  • The total amount of discussion will be limited to two minutes, with no amendments, no other votes.

But you can’t say there will be no hearings, because there is going to be a hearing. A single hearing. The way that hearing is going to be structured shows the fundamentally bizarre lengths Republicans are reaching to force this bill to the floor. That one hearing won’t be in front of any committee that has control over health care. It will be in front of the Homeland Security Committee. This committee has never before had a hearing on healthcare.

Why this apparently nonsensical choice? Because Republican Committee Chair Ron Johnson has agreed to limit witnesses on the Graham–Cassidy healthcare bill to just two: Graham and Cassidy, the authors of the bill.

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No health care experts will testify about health care. Republicans will make sure there is no one to tell a personal story of what this bill would do to them. No one to give any statistics or evidence about how it would gut healthcare and destroy provisions that protect patients. No … anyone. And of course no markup or amendments. It’s not really a Senate hearing at all: it’s Ron Johnson spitting in the face of both Democrats and tradition, because … because.

But Republicans are still enthusiastically moving forward on a bill, and a process, that would destroy any concept of the Senate as a debating body. Why? Because Graham-Cassidy could be better named the Bill To Screw Blue States and Steal Their Money.

Under the current proposal, federal healthcare funding in California would drop by $57,547 per person. New Yorkers would see a loss of $33,058. No other state even comes close. For many red states like Wyoming and South Dakota, the bill is a wash, dropping funding less than $1,000 over a decade. The formula has been deliberately crafted to punish states that vote for Democrats while protecting those that vote for Republicans. The effect could not be more brazen if they simply announced it.

And they don’t have to. Because they all know what they’re voting on: The Screw Blue Act. It’s a bill that punishes the elderly, the disabled, and the poor everywhere, but especially when those people live in blue states.

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This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.


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