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Republican Leader Says Secret Health Care Meetings Open to “Anybody”: Senate Democrats RSVP to Attend

Senator Thune to his constituents: “There’s been a lot written about this so-called working group and the small group of people meeting in secret, but those meetings are open to anybody”


Senate Republican leaders have refused to hold hearings or bipartisan meetings, blocked Democrats’ attempts to open up process and help people across the country understand how “mean” Trumpcare would be for them and their families


Democrats send RSVP cards saying they will attend, ask for details on time and location





(Washington, D.C.)—Today, U.S Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Patty Murray (D-WA) joined with other Senate Democrats to respond to Senate Republican Conference Chairman John Thune’s (R-SD) comments to his constituents that the secret Republican “working group” on Trumpcare was not actually secret and that “anybody” could attend if they wanted. Murray and other Democrats are sending Senator Thune RSVP cards letting him know they would like to take him up on this invitation, and are requesting information on the time and location of the next meeting.


“If Republican leaders are opening their secret Trumpcare meetings up to ‘anybody,’ then we want to be there so we can let people across the country know exactly how this bill would increase health care costs, undermine women’s access to health care, and cut off coverage for millions of families,” said Senator Patty Murray. “Republicans have been desperate to keep their Trumpcare bill behind closed doors as they cut their final backroom deals before jamming it through the Senate, but we are looking forward to getting more details on the next Trumpcare meeting so we can attend and weigh in on behalf of the families we represent.”


In addition to Senators Schumer and Murray, the following Democrats have sent RSVP cards:


Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR)

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL)

Senator Jack Reed (D-RI)

Senator Tom Carper (D-DE)

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI)

Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA)

Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ)

Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD)

Senator Claire McCaskill (D-MO)

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI)

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT)

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)

Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR)

Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO)

Senator Al Franken (D-MN

Senator Chris Coons (D-DE)

Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT)

Senator Brian Schatz (D-HI)

Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)

Senator Mazie Hirono (D-HI)

Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM)

Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA)

Senator Gary Peters (D-MI)

Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV)

Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH)

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)

Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA)


On Monday, Senate Democrats sent a letter to Senate Republican leaders, complete with a comprehensive list of all 31 potential rooms to hold a formal committee hearing in the United States Senate, just in case the Republicans need help scheduling one on their new Trumpcare legislation.




Argus Leader: Thune: Health bill meetings 'open to anybody'


Senate Republicans will share a proposal to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act when they have something concrete to put forth, Sen. John Thune said Thursday.


But they've not yet reached that point. And characterizations that GOP lawmakers are trying to do a rushed deal behind closed doors aren't helping, the No. 3 ranking Republican in the Senate told Argus Leader Media.


"There’s been a lot written about this so-called working group and the small group of people meeting in secret, but those meetings are open to anybody," Thune told Argus Leader Media. "Everybody’s clamoring that we’re hiding the ball somewhere. There’s no bill out there yet.


"Our product is one that we’ll get out there and share with the American people, but we’re not there yet."


The comments about open access run counter to reports in recent weeks that Senate Republican leaders have invoked a rule that would let them bypass a committee hearing on the bill and block public access to draft legislation.


Republicans have aimed to pass a bill by early July, leading health advocacy groups and constituents to pull some of their lobbying from Congress and take them to the states or to the people.


And Democrats have seized the opportunity to trumpet the lack of transparency and low approval of the American Health Care Act, which House lawmakers approved last month. Even some Republicans, including Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, said they'd not yet seen the Senate bill.


"Contrary to Sen. Thune's claims of transparency, he and his fellow Senate Republicans have used a secretive and rushed process to ram this legislation through the Senate with no public debate or scrutiny," Ann Tornberg, chair of the South Dakota Democratic Party, said in a statement. “We deserve a transparent and open process with public debate and input."


Faced with a deeply unpopular template from the House, senators are working to keep the pieces seen as popular while extracting the provisions that didn't resonate with constituents. And the clock is ticking down as insurance providers pull out of the individual insurance market, wary of what the next year will bring.


"We’ve got a bit of a crisis on our hands," Thune said. "This is a death spiral and if we don’t do something to rescue a lot of people who are in these failing Obamacare exchanges, there’s going to be a real world of hurt for a lot of people."


On the list of things to fix before the bill comes to a vote: the structure for tax credits that disproportionately help higher income individuals and younger people, the "cliff" for the Medicaid expansion phase out and funding for state's high risk pools or reinsurance programs, Thune said.


South Dakota's senior senator said he is confident that his caucus can amend those issues and make the proposal more palatable to the American people.


And making the bill more popular starts by sending it through a more conventional legislative process than House lawmakers did, he said.


“The House process was tempestuous, tumultuous. They brought it up, they pulled it back down, then brought it up again and had kind of a public back and forth," Thune said. "What we're trying to do its produce or at least get to a place where we have a bill that we can release and go out and talk about."


But no matter what the final bill, Thune said there will be some who don't support it.


“This is a very complicated, difficult issue and one that is very personal to people, so depending on where they sit, how they perceive this thing and perhaps what their political biases are, there are going to people who are unhappy with whatever you do," he said.


Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson, call (605) 370-2493 or email