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Senate Dems Criticize GOP Over ‘Secret’ Healthcare Discussions

WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats on Tuesday urged the GOP to publicly release details on healthcare legislation, the same day that key Senate lawmakers were invited to the White House to continue discussions on potentially repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

Democrats accused a “partisan gang” of 13 Republican senators of secretly crafting healthcare legislation behind closed doors, comments that mirrored similar claims made by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in 2009, during the legislative process for Obamacare.

“You couldn’t have a more partisan exercise than what you’re engaged in right now,” Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said in a video accompanying the Democratic announcement. “We’re not even going to have a hearing on a bill that impacts one-sixth of our economy. … I am stunned that that is what Leader McConnell would call regular order, which he sanctimoniously said would be the order of the day when the Republicans took the Senate over.”

The Democrats also cited comments McConnell made in 2014, when he vowed to engage both parties in the legislative process for healthcare.

Vice President Mike Pence on Tuesday appeared before Department of Health and Human Services staff in Washington, where he discussed the “ongoing collapse of the Affordable Care Act.” Echoing Democrats’ claims on Trumpcare, Pence lamented broken promises under Obamacare, while pointing to soaring premiums and evaporating healthcare choices as a multitude of insurers around the country exit Obamacare exchanges. Pence noted that one-third of America counties, including five whole states, have one healthcare choice under the Affordable Care Act.

The vice president also pointed to an HHS report released in May that shows average individual market premiums increased about 105 percent between 2013 and 2017. Pence described skyrocketing premiums in Louisiana, Alaska and Alabama, which saw increases of 123 percent, 203 percent and 223 percent, respectively.

“I can tell you that the president is working every single day to rescue the American people from this policy, to repeal and replace Obamacare and give access to the world-class healthcare that every American deserves,” Pence said during his remarks in the Great Hall. “To make this vision a reality, President Donald Trump is going to keep his promise to the American people, and working with this Congress, we’re going to repeal and replace Obamacare.”

Pence noted that he and the president invited several key Senate members to the White House today to continue discussions on repealing Obamacare, though he didn’t name any lawmakers specifically.

“The Senate is, as we speak, working tirelessly to improve this legislation and create an orderly framework to transition our healthcare economy away from the regulations and mandates and taxes of Obamacare to a patient-centered healthcare system built on personal responsibility, free-market competition, and state-based reform,” he said.

The vice president added that HHS staff will be key for moving American healthcare forward, stating that both President Trump and the agency want the same thing: To deliver a high-class healthcare system that lowers cost, increases quality and gives more choices to working families – “empowering the American people to make healthcare choices that are best for them.”

Pence lauded House Speaker Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) leadership in passing the American Health Care Act on May 4, while condemning Democrats for refusing to lift a finger “to help clean up the mess that they’ve created.” Trump said today that the Senate is working to deliver a “phenomenal” healthcare bill, and reportedly called the House version “mean.”