After years of campaign promises and weeks of legislative wrangling, Republicans finally passed a bill to repeal Obamacare on Thursday. The revised version of the American Health Care Act was rushed through Congress very quickly, before the Congressional Budget Office could even assess its total costs. In fact, shortly after it passed, two GOP politicians claimed that nobody read the AHCA in its entirety before voting on it.
"I don't think any individual has read the whole bill," Rep. Thomas Garrett told MSNBC Thursday. "That's why we have staff."
In a separate interview, Wolf Blitzer asked Rep. Chris Collins whether he had read the bill. "I will fully admit, Wolf, I did not," replied Collins, who nevertheless voted for it.
In theory, this isn't something to be concerned about. The bill is around 126 pages long, and includes head-spinning passages like the following, which I found by flipping to a random page of the bill and copying the first chunk of text I saw:
[The Social Security Act is amended] in section 1920(e) (42 U.S.C. 1396r–1(e)), by striking ‘‘under clause (i)(VIII), clause (i)(IX), or clause (ii)(XX) of subsection (a)(10)(A)’’ and inserting ‘‘under clause (i)(VIII) or clause (ii)(XX) of section 1902(a)(10)(A) before January 1, 2020, section 1902(a)(10)(A)(i)(IX),’’.
That's pretty, pretty dense. It's entirely possible that an informed, thoughtful lawmaker could simply have members of his or her staff describe the bill, rather than wading his or her way through all of that murky, legalistic language. Theoretically, there's nothing wrong with legislators passing a bill without reading every word of it.
Except, of course, for the fact that Republicans repeatedly and mercilessly criticized Democrats for this exact same thing back in 2009, when the Affordable Care Act was making its way through Congress. Going back and reading their comments on the bill at the time, the hypocrisy on display is nothing short of breathtaking.
The most shameful example here is Paul Ryan. Before he became speaker of the House now, Ryan was simply a humble Republican lawmaker concerned that Democrats were passing health care reform too quickly. In 2009, he wrote an op-ed about it, criticizing Democrats who voted for the bill in committee "without knowing what the legislation costs." Later, when asked about it on MSNBC, he was unequivocal, saying, "I don't think we should pass bills that we haven't read that we don't know what they cost."
For the record, Ryan brought the AHCA to the floor without even going through the committee process, and he did so before the CBO could estimate the bill's cost. And according to Garrett, nobody in the Republican caucus had read the bill before they voted for it, either.
There's also former Minority Leader John Boehner, who gave a fiery speech condemning Democrats after after they passed the ACA in 2010.
"Have you read the bill?" an outraged Boehner shouted on the House floor, his Republican colleagues shouting "no!" on response. "Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager's amendment!? Hell no, you haven't! Shame on us!"
There's no other way to spin this. It's flat, unabashed, undeniable hypocrisy. Garrett himself even acknowledged this to MSNBC, admitting that "it was sort of hypocrisy for us to lament passing a bill without finding out what's in it and then to do the same thing."
Indeed, it was. But that didn't prevent Republicans from doing it.