House Republican leaders are by all accounts beginning to feel the heat for not coalescing around a plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. Their distance from a consensus plan was highlighted when a draft plan leaked last week came under fire from deficit hawks for a proposal to create new refundable tax credits for buying insurance. On Wednesday, Bloomberg reported that House Republicans, determined to avoid further controversy while work continues on a new plan, have come up with an idea—they’ve physically hidden the draft from prying eyes in a secret location:
The document is being treated a bit like a top-secret surveillance intercept. It is expected to be available to members and staffers on the House Energy and Commerce panel starting Thursday, but only in a dedicated reading room, one Republican lawmaker and a committee aide said. Nobody will be given copies to take with them.
Jonathan Cohn of the Huffington Post reports that the House Energy and Commerce Committee is supposed to consider the draft next Wednesday, meaning, according to the committee's rules, that the bill will have to be made public no later than 11:59 p.m. on Monday. If House Republicans seriously intended to keep the draft hidden until then, it seems that their plan is already well on its way to failing.
On Thursday afternoon, Sen. Rand Paul, gallant knight of our Republic, attempted to gain access to the secret chamber where the bill was being kept. Fearsome trolls posted at the entrance managed to fend off Paul, who was armed only with a copy machine.
I am heading to the secure location where they are keeping the House obamacare bill. I will demand a copy for the American people.— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 2, 2017
Rep. Paul Tonko, a Democratic member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, entered the room only to discover that the bill was not there.
A merry band of other House Democrats have since joined the quest for the bill and are leading reporters from room to room in their search.
The bill is not here. Rep House: "We cannot find the bill." pic.twitter.com/9tqrKEoDal— Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod) March 2, 2017
One member compares this to an egg hunt. This being finding the Obamacare bill. pic.twitter.com/f89hZl5121— Caitlin Owens (@caitlinnowens) March 2, 2017
At one point, Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House minority whip, called on a presumably enchanted bust of Abraham Lincoln for guidance.
As of 1:24 p.m. Thursday, the quest continued.
I haven't been reading much twitter today, is The Secret Bill a new Dan Brown novel or— Emma Roller (@emmaroller) March 2, 2017
Heard you guys were looking for the Obamacare bill in the Capitol? pic.twitter.com/vrNrz0X0KA— Oliver Willis (@owillis) March 2, 2017
Found the House Obamacare replacement bill pic.twitter.com/cLyvPdSyxq— Kelsey D. Atherton (@AthertonKD) March 2, 2017
This is, sadly, a developing story.