Paul Ryan’s office is gaslighting America on the AHCA

Tara Golshan
Speaker of the House Paul Ryan speaks to the media about the American Health Care Act at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., March 15, 2017.
Aaron P. Bernstein | Reuters

The American Health Care Act — the Republican bill to repeal and replace Obamacare — was passed in the House Thursday without legislators knowing how many people it would cover and how much it would cost.

House Speaker Paul Ryan's office wants to tell you otherwise.

On Saturday, Ryan's spokesperson AshLee Strong tried to make the case that the AHCA went through a thorough and open process before last Thursday's vote.

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"AHCA was posted online a month ago, went through 4 committees, & has been scored by CBO — twice," she tweeted.

@AshLeeStrong: While we're setting the record straight: AHCA was posted online a month ago, went through 4 committees, & has been scored by CBO -- twice.

Strong's claim is misleading, because the bill changed substantially in recent weeks in order to pick up enough votes to pass. In its final form, the AHCA was not marked up in any policy-related committees, and it was posted the day before the final vote. It did not receive an updated score from the Congressional Budget Office, the nonpartisan group tasked with measuring how much it would cost and how many people it would cover. Some Republican members even admitted to not having time to read the entire bill before voting on it.

Strong's claim is only true in reference to the original draft of the health bill, which was posted in early March, went through four committee hearings — Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Budget, and Rules — and was scored by the CBO, twice. But that version of the bill failed to garner enough votes and was pulled from the House floor. In the weeks that followed, House Republicans made multiple amendments to the AHCA to make it passable.

The final version, which reduces taxes but will likely put millions of people at risk of losing their health insurance — including people with preexisting conditions, older Americans, and the poor — has not yet been evaluated by the CBO. (Strong confirmed that fact to reporters last week.) The bill includes an amendment that gives states a way to opt out of key Obamacare regulations, including one that prevents people with preexisting conditions from being charged more for their insurance.

These amendments and negotiations, which brought the AHCA over the finish line in the House, were made through private backroom negotiations between members and the White House. They were not debated in relevant policy related committees.

Even members in Ryan's own House Republican conference, including those that helped negotiate the final bill, like North Carolina Rep. Mark Meadows of the Freedom Caucus, have agreed that the AHCA was more of a "closed" process than they would have liked.

Commentary by Tara Golshan. Follow her on Twitter @t_golshan.

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