The Republican-driven American Health Care Act (AHCA) passed the House of Representatives Thursday, but some legislators didn't even bother to read the bill. Two House Republicans admitted that they didn't read the AHCA all the way through, even though they voted for it. Representative Chris Collins of New York told Wolf Blitzer on Thursday shortly after the bill passed that he hadn't read the legislation — and neither did any of his colleagues.
“I will fully admit, Wolf, that I did not [read the full bill],” Collins said. “But I can also assure you my staff did. I’m very comfortable that we have a solution to the disaster called Obamacare. ... I have to rely on my staff, and I could probably tell you that I read every word, and I wouldn’t be telling you the truth, nor would any other member.”
What's worse is that Collins still may have been stretching the truth in this interview, because he recently went on record saying he didn't understand what the AHCA would do to the people in his state. According to The Buffalo News, 19,000 New Yorkers will lose insurance coverage under the new Republican plan, unless the state foots the $3 billion tab that's currently covered by federal funds. When asked by a Buffalo News reporter if he had known about the loss of funds for New York state, he simply answered no.
Collins' spokesperson Michael McAdams defended the representative by blaming the liberal media. “Once again The Buffalo News is twisting a Republican’s words to fit its out-of-touch, liberal narrative," McAdams said. "Congressman Collins has been intimately involved in the creation of this legislation from its inception. ... He understands the impact it would have on Western New Yorkers." Collins' understanding is arguably worse than his ignorance, since it means he willingly voted to take away health care from thousands of his constituents.
Terrifyingly, Collins was right about at least one of his colleagues blindly voting for the AHCA — Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mark Sanford also confessed that he didn't read the entire AHCA before he voted to pass it on Thursday.
“I turned through every page,” Sanford said during a CNN interview. “As to whether or not I got through some of the details on some of the pages, no. But yes, I attempted to read the entire bill.” Granted, the bill is about 125 pages long and that's a lot of reading to get done in a short amount of time, but that seems to be a much stronger argument for postponing the vote than voting for it without taking the time to understand its full ramifications.
While Collins' assertion that none of the members read the bill is certainly an indictment of House Republicans, since this bill in particular is so potentially devastating to their constituents, it's also a troubling signal of congressional practices in general. Bills should take their time and get careful consideration and debate, not get rushed through just to try and score political points. Without representatives who are truly dedicated to understanding and fully endorsing every aspect of the legislation they support, the American people are always going to be the ones who end up with the short end of the stick.