Shrieks of incredulity were heard in the U.S. Senate’s Hart Senate Office Building on Thursday as time ran out on the time allocated for members to read and absorb the entirety of the massive fiscal stimulus bill known as the American Health Care Act, or AHCA.
Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of including the 628 pages of legislation to display a rushed effort to pass the bill before it will be subject to a signature from President Trump. Corker added that the strain of the reading was “unhealthy.”
“We have no time to read,” Corker said. “Just try to read the bill.
“McConnell and his staff need to slow down,” Johnson added. “I can’t be part of a process where they’re trying to ram this thing through.”
People’s Senators, a coalition of Senate Democrats, released a statement highlighting members’ concerns about the process:
“The Republican majority has had six months to hear from Americans about the House-passed bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. But since the bill was revealed to the public by Republicans Tuesday, there has been a record-high 78 hours of closed door meetings, executive sessions, committee meetings, and votes — with no opportunity for members to consider, question, or debate the Republican legislation in committee or on the floor. Only one amendment has been introduced by members, but numerous amendments have been introduced by outside groups that are not eligible to be considered in the Senate at all. Now, the 628-page legislation is in the hands of members and we are demanding that they read it completely. This is dangerous and unacceptable for a bill that will affect every American.”
Meanwhile, McConnell, a member of Trump’s Republican establishment, rebuked the Democrats’ accusations as “pretty silly.”
“If you’re suggesting that an amendment is something I’m hiding here from the public, then I have to give you some poached oysters for that comment,” McConnell told reporters after the emotional floor speech.
“The bill has been passed out of two committees,” he added. “It’s now before the whole Senate. The prime minister has never seen it. President Trump has never seen it.”
And the 628-page bill is complete, Senator McConnell said.
“It’s full, and it’s going to be up for a vote in the next few days,” he asserted.
But Johnson and Corker insisted that they would continue to push for the Republican leadership to strike out what they consider to be portions of the legislation and that they would not yield.
“You’ve got six thousand words to read,” Corker said. “We’ve got six more hours.”
“This isn’t the work of a plenary,” Corker continued. “You’re marking it up as one of these pieces of legislation that goes to conference and then the conference has seven hours. Come on, let’s take a breath and get it right.”