(Bloomberg) — House Republican leaders have a new version of their major Obamacare repeal and replacement bill. They just don’t want you to see it.
The document is being treated a bit like a top-secret surveillance intercept. It is expected to be available to members and staffers on the House Energy and Commerce panel starting Thursday, but only in a dedicated reading room, one Republican lawmaker and a committee aide said. Nobody will be given copies to take with them.
The unusual secrecy is a reflection of the sensitivity — and the stakes — surrounding the GOP effort to rewrite part, or all, the Affordable Care Act, a top priority of President Donald Trump, who has yet to offer his own plan.
It’s not yet clear which ACA provisions the current Republican Obamacare repeal bill draft would repeal.
Republican leaders are trying to avoid a repeat of what happened last time. When an outdated draft leaked last week, it was quickly panned by conservatives.
“Am I for Obamacare repeal? The answer is yes,” Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, head of a conservative wing known as the Freedom Caucus, said Tuesday. “Am I for this plan? The answer is no.” Rep. Mark Walker of North Carolina, who chairs the 170-member Republican Study Committee, also said he couldn’t support the leaked draft and won’t recommend his colleagues do so, either.
Paul Ryan says the bill is being handled using normal legislative procedures. (Photo: Ryan’s office)
Republicans members have stalled so far on their efforts to find a path forward, and Trump’s address Tuesday night to a joint session of Congress didn’t offer new details.
With this latest draft, leaders are taking additional steps to make sure it doesn’t leak prematurely, before some members have signed onto it.
“The draft of it is going to be available tomorrow for those of us on the health subcommittee to start poring through,” said Rep. Chris Collins of New York, a Trump ally and member of the health subcommittee of Energy and Commerce. “Unfortunately for you, we’re making sure it won’t be leaked.”
“We’re not having a hearing or anything,” added Gus Bilirakis of Florida, another panel member. “But there’ll be a place for us to view it, the draft.”
On Tuesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan said the bill is being handled under normal legislative procedures.
“We’re not hatching some bill in a backroom and plopping it on the American people’s front door,” he said on NBC’s “Today” show.