2017-06-21 / Opinions

Why the secrecy, Sen. McConnell?

Last month on this page, we wrote that while we hoped Sen. Mitch McConnell would do the right thing and correct the errors of the House of Representatives in regard to repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, we feared he would not.

It appears our fears were justified.

Leading an all-male, all-Republican group without any input from Democrats or women, Kentucky’s senior senator is holding secret meetings in the Capitol to create a bill that will literally determine whether millions of American live or die. No public comment will be taken, no bipartisanship will be displayed.

The House bill to repeal and replace the ACA (ObamaCare) would cause an estimated 23 million Americans to lose their health coverage. How many will the Senate bill condemn?

McConnell has promised the TrumpCare bill that comes out of the Senate will be far different from the TrumpCare bill that passed the House, but promises are cheap. If the bill is so good, why can’t Americans see it? Why can’t Democrats see it and offer amendments that might make it better? Why is the bill being pushed through a process that will allow Republicans to bypass a Democratic filibuster and pass the bill on a simple majority vote?

Republicans often claim they are only doing what Democrats did to them with the ACA, however that talking point is disingenuous at best. There were numerous public hearings on the ACA. President Obama held a nationally televised meeting with Republicans to discuss their issues with the bill and to allow them to offer their suggestions. Republican amendments were allowed for debates and votes for 25 work days — five full weeks. In the end, it took more than a year for the bill to work its way through Congress.

We are only six months into the current Republican-controlled government, and McConnell’s aim is to have this bill completed by July 4, possibly bringing it to the floor next week, all without a single committee meeting, no public discussion and no amendments. Why? Is there something there that will sink the bill if it becomes public?

We suspect there is. The House version of bill included provisions worth $1 billion to the health care industry, and hundreds of thousands to the pharmaceutical industry.

While Americans wonder if the Senator will live up to his promise and if lifesaving medical care will be available to them when this is all over, nothing in McConnell’s history should give them any comfort that will happen.

According to OpenSecrets.org, a web site that aggregates campaign finance data, the insurance industry has given McConnell’s campaign committee and his leadership PAC $1,262,800 in the 2016 cycle alone. Since 2010, the insurance industry has given his committees $4,646,041. The pharmaceutical industry gave his campaign committee and PAC $2,121,266 for the same period.

Since 2014, McConnell has received nearly 80 percent of his political contributions from out of state. When he was re-elected in 2014, he spent $30,435,557 to keep his $193,400 per year job.

In the meantime, no one answers his phone in Washington and constituents find his voice mail is full. He doesn’t hold town hall meetings, and the meetings he does have require that attendees be pre-screened. If an uncomfortable question is asked, it goes unanswered, and the questioner is escorted out. The Senate Rules Committee attempted last week to bar reporters from filming interviews with senators in the Capitol hallways, a practice that has been common for decades, and many believe it is a further effort to shield the healthcare bill from media and public scrutiny.

Who does Sen. McConnell think he is?

He was elected by the people, and he receives a handsome salary from taxpayer money, yet he conducts the public’s business behind closed doors, with no apparent regard for the opinions or the well-being of the people who elected him.

Don Ritchie, longtime historian of the Senate, says the Senate hasn’t seen such secrecy on a major piece of legislation since the years before World War I. This, Senator McConnell, is not how a representative democracy is run.

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