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Sen. Rand Paul Is Hunting for the GOP Health Care Bill

Republican rank-and-file members are genuinely upset about feeling like they are being shut out of a process to write the health care legislation.
Image: Rand Paul
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, walks to a room on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, March 2, 2017, where he charges House Republicans are keeping their Obamacare repeal and replace legislation under lock and key and not available for public view. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Crafting the bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care has publicly become a variety show filled with theatrics like treasure hunts and a conversation with an effigy of Abe Lincoln.

But it is what has been going on privately that has Republican lawmakers upset.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., invited reporters on a hunt around the U.S. Capitol in search of the Republican bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

He stopped to speak to a bust of Abraham Lincoln to ask if he’s seen the health care bill.

“I know Mr. Lincoln you are as upset with your party as I am,” Hoyer said, looking at the larger than life-size statue.

He entered a room on the first floor of the Capitol where he heard that the bill was being kept, but when he entered the legislation was nowhere to be seen.

Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., entered House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s office to ask him if he could look at the bill. He didn’t.

“I’m just going to keep demanding where the bill is,” Pallone said after exiting McCarthy’s office.

While Democrats’ political theatrics attracted attention, rank-and-file Republicans are genuinely upset about feeling shut out of the process to write the health care legislation.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, in a hastily called news conference, also expressed his frustration at the lack of transparency in the process.

“The only copy we’ve seen is from the media,” Paul said Thursday morning. “And now we’re told it’s being classified and the hearing is like a security clearance hearing - you have to have security clearance and permission and have to be on the committee to see the bill.”

At a meeting Wednesday evening of Senate Republicans, the two committee chairmen from the House of Representatives who mostly wrote the bill presented the main components of the legislation to the senators.

Senators left and remained unusually quiet, unwilling to discuss anything the meeting.

Paul on Thursday said of the meeting: “We’ve been told it’s, ‘take it or leave it. This is what you get,’” Paul said.

The bill is expected to be debated in the relevant committees as early as next week.

A draft plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act was obtained by NBC News last week from a health care lobbyist. The plan calls for rolling back much of the Affordable Care Act and replacing it with tax credits for people who purchase health insurance based on age. It would also gradually roll back the expansion of Medicaid and institute grants to states to fund Medicaid based on a per capita formula.

Paul and two other senators, Ted Cruz of Texas and Mike Lee of Utah, are displeased with the contents of the bill. If the three vote against it and Republicans can’t persuade a Democrat to support their plan, it would fail.

A number of House Republicans have also expressed opposition to the draft proposal for numerous reasons, including the tax credits and the size of the Medicaid program.

Republican leaders, however, say that the process has been extremely open, pointing to multiple meetings with Republicans allowing them to suggest ideas.

“I’ve never seen a process that is open and consulted since I’ve been here,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

“The whole point of yesterday’s meeting was so members could hear about the bill and to make their suggestions about it while there’s still time to make substantial changes.”