Sen. Brian Schatz needs three Republican senators to take a stand in the name of normalcy.
Nobody really knows what's in the Senate's health care bill. It's a massive problem that needs to be addressed, so that's what Sen. Brian Schatz did.
Monday night, the Hawaii Democrat took to the Senate floor to criticize how his colleagues are handling their chamber's version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill, which is being written in secret by 13 Republican men, is expected to come up for a vote as early as next week. Understandably, that has some senators (and, you know, the American people) a bit stressed out by what has turned out to be a super-shady process.
In his floor speech, Schatz called on leadership to release the bill and let it "see the light of day."
A push for more transparency — especially when it comes to how our laws get made — isn't a Democratic or Republican issue. It's about accountability.
In 2010, now-Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price (who was a member of Congress at the time) pushed for "a little sunlight."
And when it comes to a health care bill this bad, a little sunlight could go a long way.— Tom Price (@Tom Price) 1262796820
Vice President Mike Pence, then governor of Indiana, spoke out against "legislation that'll affect 100% of the American people" being put together in secret.
It's simply wrong for legislation that'll affect 100% of the American people to be negotiated behind closed doors - http://ow.ly/W9gq #hcr— Governor Mike Pence (@Governor Mike Pence) 1263413207
And Sen. John Cornyn made a similar push to include "the rest of America that was excluded from secret talks" on health care reform.
How about the rest of America that was excluded from secret talks: White House nears deal on health care? http://bit.ly/5dK7b6— Senator John Cornyn (@Senator John Cornyn) 1263563032
Of course, in 2010, Price, Pence, and Cornyn were all talking about a different health care bill: the Affordable Care Act (ACA), aka Obamacare.
Back then, the argument that the ACA was being written in "secret" was mostly hyperbole. Today, what's happening with the AHCA is unprecedented.
Andy Slavitt worked closely with Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA's design and implementation during President Obama's term. On Twitter, he recently laid out the major differences between the Senate's process in 2009 and 2010, when it was considering the ACA, and what's happening in 2017 with the AHCA.
To be clear, we should be talking about weeks & months of review, hearings & experts and floor debate. Lots of expe… https://t.co/O27Qb7hq91— Andy Slavitt 🇺🇸💉 (@Andy Slavitt 🇺🇸💉) 1497558124
While the process for the ACA in 2010 certainly could have been more transparent, there's no denying the difference between 36 days of hearings and 18 days of markup then to absolutely nothing at all now — from 26 days of scheduled floor debate to as little as 20 hours. There's a big difference between the two processes, and whatever transparency problems existed back in 2010 have gotten much worse in 2017.
Like so much else in 2017, this secretive process is not normal.
Schatz's speech was a call to action for members of both parties to no longer let "not normal" be normal.
"This is the world's greatest deliberative body," said Schatz, referring to a sometimes tongue-in-cheek nickname for the Senate and its reputation for exhaustive debate on important pieces of legislation compared to the rapid-fire workings of the House of Representatives.
"Let the Senate be the Senate," he urged his Republican colleagues, hoping to find three who are willing to take a stand in the name of restoring order. If, after debating the bill on its merits in the light of day, the Senate passes it, at least it would be a return to how things are supposed to work.
It's easy to pin the breakdown of our political process on President Trump, but the truth is our legislators have the power to restore order — if they want to.
This isn't about Trump; it's about men and women, some of whom have been in Congress for decades, exploiting the new "everything goes" attitude in Washington where nothing seems to matter.
But this bill certainly does matter — to Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike. Wherever we stand with our own personal politics, we should all be able to agree these types of massive decisions shouldn't be made in secret and shouldn't be rushed.
We need to say "no" to "not normal," and that starts with calling our senators and asking them to take a principled stand on the process behind this bill.
Watch a portion of Schatz's speech below.