Amid reports that House Republicans are keeping their draft healthcare legislation in a secret location, Congressional lawmakers on Thursday convened an actual search party to find the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal and replacement bill.
Republican Sen. Paul Rand (Ky.) was the first to raise alarm when he tweeted:
@RandPaul This is unacceptable. This is the biggest issue before Congress and the American people right now.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 2, 2017
He added that he was "heading to the secure location where they are keeping the House Obamacare bill," where he would "demand a copy for the American people."
That set off a "bipartisan wild goose chase," as Vox reporter Sarah Kliff, who was along on the journey, phrased it.
The draft is reportedly being made available in a private location for members of the House Energy and Commerce panel to read, allegedly so copies of it will not be leaked (as was the case with the previous iteration).
"The draft legislation was rumored to be in H-157, a nondescript meeting room in the House of Representatives," Kliff reported. "When legislators arrived, Capitol Police were guarding the entrance, and dozens of reporters were waiting outside for the much-anticipated legislation."
Rand, who arrived with a printer in tow (presumably to make copies), was denied entry as were Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.).
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Sen Paul trying to enter room with ACA bill. Being denied entry pic.twitter.com/Vwg6vtZelc— Sarah Kliff (@sarahkliff) March 2, 2017
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was inexplicably allowed inside where he searched around before concluding it was not there. "I've looked in the Ways and Means Committee Room, I've looked in the Ways and Means conference room, I've looked here," he said. "We cannot find the bill."
Hoyer then reportedly began speaking to a large bust of Abraham Lincoln, telling the former president, "Mr. Lincoln, you said public sentiment is everything. But if the public can't see the bill, they can't give us their sentiment. That's not regular order. That's not democracy."
The whole episode made for great comedy, except that it seems to be part of a House leadership plan to get the ACA, or Obamacare, repeal underway without transparent accounting for how many people it will impact or how much it will cost.
Bloomberg reported Wednesday that the health panel "may try to mark up the bill next week, but it hasn't been processed yet by the Congressional Budget Office, which will provide a 'score' on its cost, as well as an estimate of how many people the plan will insure. That score is critical to the debate, because the GOP plan is expected to provide coverage for significantly fewer people than Obamacare."
Trump ally and health panel member Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) told Bloomberg, "It looks like, unfortunately, based on the delays, we may be marking it up and voting on it before we have a score."
"We can't sit back and wait for these scores to come out for three more weeks before we start what's a three-week process," he added.