iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Seven weeks after the House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act, Senate Republicans unveiled their version of the health care bill Thursday.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky released a “discussion draft” at an all-members meeting at 9:30 a.m.
The bill’s release follows months of speculation and contentious debate. Ever the dominant issue, health care remains a critical focus for many, as worried Americans swarmed congressional town hall meetings in recent months to voice their outrage.
Some Republican representatives were willing to face their constituents head-on on the issues, while others shunned the events. Senate Democrats have criticized their Republican counterparts for working on the bill behind closed doors.
Democrats have voiced pessimism about the substance of the bill. On Tuesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said he agreed with President Donald Trump, who reportedly called the House bill “mean.”
McConnell has disagreed, saying, “It’s going to have a profound, positive improvement over the status quo. The status quo is simply unsustainable.”
But when ABC News’ Mary Bruce asked McConnell if Americans have a right to see the negotiations process, he did not provide an answer.
What does the bill look like?
The bill is expected to dramatically roll back the expansion of Medicaid, and also establish a system of tax credits to help consumers buy insurance.
However, the details have not been publicized. Although the bill unveiled Thursday will be a wholly Republican-crafted piece of legislation, not all Republicans are on board. Republican leaders want a vote next week, but with health care for millions on the line, some Republican members are asking: What’s the hurry?
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., explained: “The public needs time to digest it, I need time to digest it, we need to gather genuine input from our constituencies — that’s going to take longer than a week.”
This means the Senate bill released Thursday could be very different from the one eventually voted on. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., appearing on ABC News’ Powerhouse Politics podcast, noted that when crafting the Affordable Care Act, Republicans had a chance to offer changes.
“In the Health Committee, I think 160 Republican amendments were accepted into the bill,” Franken said. “It was debated for 25 straight days before it was voted on. It was scored well in advance. This is a sham.”
Once the bill is unveiled, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which provides nonpartisan, quantitative analysis to Congress, will evaluate it. Republican leaders expect the new CBO score to come on Monday, but are hopeful it could come as soon as Friday.
The CBO estimates that the version of the American Health Care Act passed by the House would leave 24 million more Americans uninsured by 2026, as compared to estimates under the current law, the Affordable Care Act. The legislation is also estimated to potentially reduce federal deficits by $337 billion from 2017 to 2026.
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