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House Republicans Ram Trumpcare — WITHOUT KNOWING THE COST

On Thursday night, House Republicans moved ahead with their effort to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, brushing aside new criticism of what their proposed legislation would leave millions of Americans without health insurance ― and ignoring protests over the hurried process they are using to enact it.

Two Energy and Commerce, and Ways and Means committees spent dozens of hours Thursday to advance complementary portions of the American Health Care Act (Trumpcare), the long-awaited bill to repeal and “replace” the 2010 health care law. The Ways and Means Committee completed its work around 4:30 a.m. Thursday, and the Energy and Committee followed early Thursday afternoon.

The proceedings moved forward as lawmakers re-litigated the Affordable Care Act, traded barbs about the GOP bill, and squabbled about procedure.

In the end, the measure was approved by the Ways and Means Committee unchanged, and only one minor Republican amendment found its way onto the legislation in the Energy and Commerce Committee. The next step is the Budget Committee, then the House as a whole.

Democrats uniformly oppose Affordable Care Act repeal and the proposed GOP “replacement.” But Republican leaders face bigger problems in the forms of a conservative revolt against their plan, as well as public opposition from the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, AARP and other organizations.

The GOP bill would roll back the Affordable Care Act’s expansion of Medicaid and further reduce funding for the program, then restructure federal tax subsidies in ways that would generally provide less help for people with lower incomes and higher insurance costs. The bill would also reduce taxes on corporations and wealthy individuals, and loosen regulations on the insurance industry.

On Wednesday, during the hearings, Democrats on both committees complained about the absence of a CBO score, noting that it meant they had only a hazy idea of what the proposal would mean for insurance coverage and even less knowledge of what it would mean for the federal budget.

“We need to know what this is going to cost, we need to know what kind of health insurance is going to be possible,” Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) said at the Energy and Commerce Committee meeting. “You either don’t care about it or you are worried what’s going to come out.”

“You’ve been harping on this for almost seven years. You can’t wait a couple of weeks?” Eshoo said. “We are playing with people’s lives.”

Over and over again, GOP leaders turned down Democratic requests for more time, dismissing concerns about the lack of CBO scoring. At the same markup, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) slammed the budget agency as “unelected bureaucrats in Washington.” Those remarks echoed attacks on the CBO from other GOP leaders in Congress, as well as remarks that White House press secretary Sean Spicer made on Wednesday.

The ratings agency Standard & Poor’s has already said it estimates 6 million to 10 million people would become uninsured if GOP legislation were to become law. The Brookings Institution projects at least 15 million would lose coverage.

The Senate, for its part, hasn’t really done much on repeal yet. But majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said he will bring legislation directly to the floor for a vote, bypassing committees altogether. If the Senate votes yes, then it would just be a matter of working out differences between the chambers, to whatever extent they exist, so that Congress could send a final bill to President Donald Trump for his signature.

In the seven years since the Affordable Care Act became law, Republicans have frequently attacked Democrats for supposedly crafting legislation in secret and then rushing votes before lawmakers really understood what it would do. In reality, as Huffington Post notes, those deliberations lasted more than a year, with hundreds of hours of hearings and floor debate, and with CBO estimates guiding discussion at every step.

That contrast was a topic of frequent discussion during the committee proceedings Wednesday and Thursday, with Democrats proposing amendments that would have prohibited votes before hearing from the CBO ― and Republicans defeating those amendments. At the Ways and Means hearing, Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.), who sponsored one of those amendments, accused Republicans of rushing votes because they wanted to avoid scrutiny of the legislation.

“You’re fearful that the CBO will provide answers to questions that you don’t like,” Levin said Wednesday. “You want essentially a sneak attack…before the public hears and we have from the CBO. That is something inexcusable.”

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