It was a little bit funny – and not entirely fair.
On Thursday afternoon, Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky decided he’d like a peek at the latest GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. He’d heard that a House Energy and Commerce committee was about to discuss the legislation, so he walked over from the Senate to get a glimpse.
One problem: That legislation was secret.
So Paul, who is not shy about spectacles, had some fun. He tweeted about his walk to the House, which ensured that reporters would meet him there. He brought a copy machine, in case he got his hands on the legislation. You get the idea.
Paul didn’t get anywhere, of course. A House staffer told him he couldn’t see the legislation, and that he couldn’t attend the meeting. But Paul got some good mileage out of his stroll, as did Democrats who tweeted later Thursday about their own “search” for Obamacare’s replacement.
Which brings us to the unfair part: Although bill drafts are sometimes leaked early – sometimes as trial balloons – they’re generally filed and made public after they’re debated and tweaked in committees. So Paul’s grandstanding – as well as the fun some Democrats later had with their own “search” for the legislation – was a little disingenuous.
But this also is true: When the last version of an Obamacare repeal was leaked last week, it was roundly panned. Democrats rightly noted that it was a hollow and costly alternative to the Affordable Care Act. Conservatives said it didn’t go far enough in repealing Obamacare.
Such is the challenge Republicans face. They have yet to provide a plan that doesn’t leave millions more Americans uninsured or paying significantly more for coverage. But they face a conservative base that will be satisfied with nothing less than Obamacare’s ashes.
Add to that a swell of town halls featuring people fearful at the prospect of losing Obamacare – and polls that show Americans supporting the ACA’s core benefits – and you can understand why Republicans are skittish about making their ideas public. Replacing Obamacare is not nearly as easy as they said it would be, because Obamacare wasn’t nearly as bad as they said it was. That secret is already out.