Hickenlooper: 'Kind of crazy' that Senate Republicans are crafting health care bill in secret

DENVER – Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper joined Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich on CNN Monday night to argue that the secretive health care legislation being crafted by a handful of Senate Republicans would be better off with input from both sides of the aisle and from the governors who will have to implement any new health care system in their respective states.

“I’ve never had a good idea in my life that the moment I started talking about it with staff or people around me, that it didn’t suddenly get better,” Hickenlooper told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “And to think that a small number of one party is going to come up with the right solutions is kind of crazy.”

Hickenlooper and Kasich were among a group of seven bipartisan governors who sent a letter to the U.S. Senate’s majority and minority leaders Friday criticizing the House-passed version of the American Health Care Act—the bill Republicans aim use to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.

The governors said in the letter that the House-passed version of the bill “calls into question coverage for the vulnerable and fails to provide the necessary resources to ensure that no one is left out, while shifting significant costs to the states” and that provisions in the bill involving hundreds of billions in Medicaid cuts were “particularly problematic.”

In their interview with Cooper Monday, both Hickenlooper and Kasich criticized Republicans who have kept the crafting of the Senate’s bill secret from even some of their Republican colleagues.

Cooper asked Kasich if he felt, as a Republican, that the Senate secrecy, led by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, was something he was supportive of.

“No, you think I’m going to say yes, Anderson?” Kasich quipped. “Of course it’s not. I mean they’ve got to let people know what they’re doing. This is like 1/6 of the U.S. economy. They have to do an analysis of this bill and know how many people it affects and how much it costs.”

Reach out to Senate Democrats,” Kasich continued. “Work this thing together. If you don’t, it’s not sustainable and the next administration is going to overturn this, and we never get to the issue of what’s driving up health care costs.”

Hickenlooper said that he and Kasich had been discussing the health care bills, and figured they only disagreed on about 5 percent of the issues.

“We could find compromises on almost everything,” he said.

Hickenlooper also added to Kasich’s call for Republicans, like Colorado’s Republican senator, Cory Gardner, to reach across party lines.

He also suggested that the governors should be more involved in the process, as they will be the ones who actually have to figure out how their states will put in place any changes to the nation’s health care system.

“Not only should Republican senators reach out to Democratic senators, but I would volunteer there are a bunch of governors, who actually have to implement what they come up with, who could give some substantive and meaningful suggestions on how to control costs and how not to have to roll back coverage,” Hickenlooper said.

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said Tuesday that McConnell was writing the bill, and that the ongoing working committees Republicans like Gardner have pointed to as crafting the bill weren’t having as much input.

“We can say the budget committee, we can say the health committee, but McConnell is writing the bill.”

Three Democratic senators went on a quest Tuesday morning to find a copy of the secretive bill, paying a visit to the Congressional Budget Office, but coming up empty.

The Republican senators crafting the bill are expected to send it to the CBO to score this week, and McConnell has said he would like a vote on the new bill before the July 4 recess, and possibly as soon as next week.

But McConnell and other Republicans have been widely panned as hypocrites because of their secrecy.

McConnell complained about the process in passing the Affordable Care Act, which had more than three weeks of total floor time and discussion over the months it was put together in open session, in both 2009 and 2010.

“The real bill will soon be cobbled together in a secret conference room somewhere in the Capitol by a handful of Democratic senators,” he said in 2009, before saying just months later that Americans were “tired of giant bills negotiated in secret, then jammed through on a party-line vote in the middle of the night.”

Gardner, who is reportedly one of the 13 senators crafting the Senate version of the bill, hasn’t addressed the transparency concerns despite sharing those same concerns just four months ago.

In February, Gardner himself said, “It’s important to me that this debate be open and that the American people see what’s happening and taking place,” according to a transcript from HuffPost. “I think as this committee hearings and legislation is being drafted, it’s not going to be something behind closed doors. Everybody is going to be a part of it.”

Gardner says he will “continue working with my Senate colleagues on legislation that strengthens Medicaid, protects people with pre-existing conditions, and allows Coloradans to have access to more affordable insurance plans.”

But even some of his Republican Senate colleagues were starting to share the same transparency concerns Gardner and others have been derided over in recent weeks.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., lamented that no one had seen the Senate’s version possibly less than 2 weeks before a vote.

“We used to complain like hell when the Democrats ran the Affordable Care Act. Now we’re doing the same thing,” McCain told NBC News.

Sen. John Cornyn said Tuesday that Democrats would get to see the bill as soon as Republicans saw it, and McConnell said early Tuesday afternoon he believes a “discussion draft” of the Senate’s bill would be released on Thursday.

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