During a conference call in February, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner assured worried constituents that they would have plenty of opportunities to weigh in on any legislation to replace Obamacare.
“It’s important to me that this debate be open and that the American people see what’s happening and taking place,” said Gardner. “So Sandy, I think as this committee hearings and legislation is being is drafted, it’s not going to be something behind closed doors, everybody is going to be a part of it. It’s important that we get this right.”
Now, about four months later, the Republican leadership of the U.S. Senate, which includes Gardner himself, has no plans to hold public hearings on their Obamacare replacement legislation, currently being drafted in secret by 13 senators, including Gardner.
As U.S. Senate President Mitch McConnell (R-KY) explained this week after invoking a rule that would move the health care bill to a full Senate vote with little or no chance for amendments:
“We’ve been dealing with this issue for seven years. It’s not a new thing,” McConnell said, arguing that there was little new left to be discussed in a public forum. “Nobody’s hiding the ball here,” he said. “You’re free to ask anybody anything. But there have been gazillions of hearings on this subject, when they were in the majority, when we were in the majority. We understand this issue pretty well and we’re now working on coming up with a solution.”
Despite his previous promises, Gardner hasn’t objected to the secrecy ― and it doesn’t appear that reporters have asked him about it.
But U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has objected, saying she “has a problem with it” and the secrecy is “just not a good way to handle something that is as significant and important as health care.”
In fact, Gardner has said very little of substance about the Senate bill. But based on the little he has said, he’s apparently not fighting to keep 400,000 Coloradans on the Obamacare health insurance rolls but instead is advocating for throwing them off slowly, in a “glide path.”
Gardner is doubling down on hypocrisy here, because he’s been apoplectic for years over what he says was Democrats’ failure to offer sufficient public input into the formulation of Obamacare, even though, in 2009 with Democrats in control, the full U.S. Senate debated the Obamacare bill for 25 straight days, the Senate Health Committee held 60 hours of public hearings, and the Senate Finance Committee considered 130 amendments and held 79 roll-call votes.
“This President [Obama] has claimed to be one of the most transparent in history, yet his health care overhaul was passed behind closed doors and ended up cutting $500 billion from Medicare,” Gardner said in 2013. “The American people deserve better than that.”
And Gardner repeated this false accusation just three months ago on KNUS 710-AM.
“This is an idea [the Obamacare replacement] that will go through regular order, through committees, and have an opportunity to be openly debated and talked about — something that is completely different than what happened six years ago when the Affordable Care Act was written behind closed doors and the leadership offices, and then crammed down on the Senate floor directly,” Gardner told KNUS 710-AM’s Jimmy Sengenberger. “So, this is something that is going to go through an open process — regular order.”
Gardner is in a good position to influence the Senate’s health-care bill, not only due to his Senate leadership role but also as a member of the committee of 13 senators selected by McConnell that’s drafting the Senate’s Obamacare replacement in secret. Gardner was among a group of senators who had lunch with Trump Tuesday to discuss the legislation.
Gardner continued to keep his cards close to his chest this week, saying he’s not seen any text of the bill and not offering any details.
It appears that Senate Republicans plan to send their legislation to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) for a “score.” A quick vote by the House Republicans last month came before the CBO analysis, which later showed that 14 million more people uninsured next year and 12 million more within 10 years.
On conservative talk radio in March, Gardner suggested that the dismantlement of Obamacare should begin without a CBO analysis, thus avoiding public outcry over the prospect of so many people losing health insurance.
Listen to Gardner’s comment on the Feb. 6 conference call here.