Rand Paul

Frustrated with Secretive Health Care Bill, Rand Paul Proposes Giving Senators Time to Read It

Paul's "Read the Bills" resolution would change Senate rules to allow one day of transparency for every 20 pages of a bill's length.


Ron Sachs/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

Here's a novel idea. Members of Congress should have time to read—fully read, from start to finish—the text of a bill before being asked to vote on it.

Frustrated by a secretive process for rewritting the House's health care bill, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said Wednesday that he would reintroduce a resolution requiring the Senate to give its members sufficient time to read lengthy bills before they could be called upon to cast votes. His "Read the Bills" resolution would change Senate rules to require bills and amendments to be filed for one day per 20 pages before they could be considered, giving lawmakers time to digest legislation before giving their vote.

"Legislation is too often shoved through Congress without proper hearings, amendments, or debate, as the secrecy surrounding the Senate's health care bill and the pressure to vote for it with little time to fully evaluate the proposal once again remind us," Paul said in an emailed statement Wednesday.

The Senate version of the American Health Care Act (AHCA) is expected to be unveiled later today, after weeks of secretive work behind closed doors to draft changes to the bill. (UPDATE: The bill has been released. Read Peter Suderman's coverage of it here.)

As passed by the House, the AHCA is 131 pages long. Under Paul's proposed resolution, a 131-page bill would require a period of at least seven days between when it was filed and when it could be voted. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has promised there won't be a vote until next week, but the Senate version of the bill is likely to grow longer, perhaps much longer, than the House-passed version as amendments are added. For context, the final version of the Affordable Care Act was more than 900 pages long when it was passed in 2010.

"If we are to answer to the American people, it is imperative we pay close attention to the legislation we pass," Paul said.

Paul isn't the only member of the upper chamber to be rankled by the secretive, rushed legislating. Republican Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, and Mike Lee of Utah have expressed concerns about having enough time to read and understand the bill before an expected vote next week. "Even though we thought we were going to be in charge of writing a bill within this working group, it's not being written by us," Lee told Bloomberg News earlier this week. "So if you're frustrated by the lack of transparency in this process, I share your frustration. I share it wholeheartedly."

With 52 Republicans in the Senate, it would take three defectors to block the bill's passage.

Paul is the most likely to jump ship. In addition to his complaints about the process, Paul has been openly dissatisfied the substance of the AHCA since it was first introduced by House Republicans in March, criticizing the bill for not going far enough to repeal taxes and regulatory mandates created under Obamacare. The tax credits included in the bill—a replacement for Obamacare's subsidies to help low-income Americans afford insurance—have been specifically targeted by Paul as "a new entitlement program."

"My main concern is I promised voters that I would repeal—vote to repeal Obamacare. And everything I hear sounds like Obamacare-lite," Paul told The Washington Post on Wednesday.

Despite months of criticism of the bill, Paul has not taken an official position on whether he will support it. He told Bloomberg News earlier this week that he would make that decision after seeing the text of the bill.

He will likely get to see it on Thursday. Whether he has time to read the whole thing remains to be seen.

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  1. Better is my plan of forcing each member voting “yea” on legislation would have to read it aloud in its entirety at the time of the vote. Any deviation, mistake or shortcut would count as a vote against.

    1. Beautiful. A solution to gridlock at last!

      1. A solution tofor gridlock at last!

        FIFY, and I approve.

    2. Except it is quite possible to read something out loud without registering or comprehending what you are reading.

    3. A “dark man” would just whisper the words in their ears like he did the Lord’s prayer to those Salem witches.

    4. Assumes literacy from all members of the legislators. Not a reasonable expectation. This is the reason they have staffers.

      Nope, what you really want is guest speakers to read bills before congress. It would have been badass to have James Earl Jones read the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. Have Janet Varney read the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009. William Shatner the Prison Rape Elimination Act of 2003.

      Members not present for the reading don’t get to vote.

  2. With 52 Republicans in the Senate, it would take three defectors to block the bill’s passage.

    Why would you assume not a single Democrat is going to vote for the bill? A knee-jerk vote against it simply because it’s a Republican bill would be rather hypocritical given all the hand-wringing over the “obstructionist GOP” and their knee-jerk votes against all things Obama for the last eight years, no? I’m sure every Democratic senator, just like every Republican senator, is waiting to read the bill and consider it on its merits before making a decision on their vote.

    1. That would be why Democrats are objecting to unanimous consent requests in the Senate: they’re so interested in evaluating GOP proposals on their merits.

    2. I’m sure every Democratic senator, just like every Republican senator, is waiting to read the bill and consider it on its merits before making a decision on their vote.


  3. If the Senate supports their version of the healthcare bill, it won’t be because they don’t know what’s in it.

    The main resistance to the Senate version is coming from moderates who don’t want to cut Medicaid.

    Rand Paul and company are opposing it because it doesn’t do even more of what it does. Unfortunately, if the bill were any better than it is, it couldn’t get the votes to pass.

    The bill does three things that every libertarian should love:

    1) It kills the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion.

    2) It gets rid of the stupid regulation that limits the working poor to only working 29 hours a week.

    3) It kills the individual mandate.

    This doesn’t need to be the end of the debate, but for goodness’ sake, take your winnings off the table and keep fighting. Cutting Medicaid eligibility is an historic achievement–I don’t think anyone has ever done it before.

    And moving individuals from Medicaid to private plans via subsidies is exactly like moving kids from public schools to private schools with vouchers–something every libertarian should love. That’s not just the way to get rid of the ObamaCare Medicaid expansion; that’s the road map for getting rid of the rest of Medicaid, too.

    1. I suppose a shit sandwich could be said to be more appetizing if you put some garnish on it, but you’ll still be eating shit.

      You make a good utilitarian case, but I’m not sure that will get you very far ’round these parts.

      1. This would be more like scraping off some of the shit. You’re still eating shit, but at least you don’t need to put in extra time at the gym.

    2. Perhaps no top down solution to healthcare can work and what’s needed are myriad local, bottom up solutions, locally financed. Get rid of medicare and medicaid too.

      The present financing system is designed to keep hospitals solvent and avoid the bankruptcies we saw in the 1970’s. It also keeps the healthcare system sclerotic by impeding innovation when the impetus does not come from Big Pharma.

      Most chronic conditions arise from lifestyle and poor nutrition. Poor nutrition is a consequence of industrial agriculture. You can gorge yourself on vegetables today but you won’t get the same nutrients, minerals, vitamins and micronutrients you did even 50 years ago. Then there’s the scourge of gluten and “leaky gut” which is at the heart of autoimmune disorders.

      The real solution is agroforestry and polyculture – diversity. A different paradigm. There’s no way the federal government can use force and the threats of violence when voluntary self-education, local action and lifestyle changes are needed.

  4. No need for ‘rules’ on this; just let the leadership know that you will vote NO on any bill that you have not had time to read, and put it in the record why you are voting no. He would only have to get a few fellow republicans on board to make it stick.

  5. Wait, isn’t Sen. Paul on of those wacko-birds? I’m pretty sure a well respected and tenured member of that august institution made it clear to all that this man is DERANGED! Read a bill before voting? Lunacy! Sad.

  6. Here’s another novel idea: if you haven’t had time to read it, don’t vote for it.

  7. It’s a good think Republican politicians and commentators don’t have any principles at all, otherwise they might be forced to reconcile their support of this bill with their complaints about the “backroom deals” and “dirty tricks” used to pass ObamaCare.

  8. Spshhhh, just write it off.

    1. You don’t even know what a write off is.

  9. Here’s a novel idea. Members of Congress should have time to read?fully read, from start to finish?the text of a bill before being asked to vote on it.

    Here’s another: Each congresscreature would have to submit to the Record a written detailed explanation of why xi is voting for or against or is abstaining.

    1. That would soon devolve into form paragraphs entered by staffers: “Billy, enter paragraphs c and f for my reasons for this bill.”

      1. Yep. “Anyway, nobody reads the Record.”

  10. Paul should have been President, but I’m not sure a sane person is even allowed to be President anymore. Either way I’ll keep voting for him, every chance I get. Those who keep not voting for him because he’s some kind of foreign policy idiot should probably take a gander at our current POTUS, but enough of them seem to believe that Trump is some kind of secret genius that I’m not hopeful that a Paul will ever win out over crazy, evil, and stupid.

  11. My fantasy constitution has a very simple legislative process. There are two chambers. Every member of every chamber can submit a bill at any time; no committees etc. Once submitted, it becomes visible to the public. It becomes enacted law if, 30 days later, a majority of members in each chamber have given their approval. Any changes to the bill restart the 30 day clock.

    The 30 day clock is waived and a bill becomes enacted immediately if it gets 90% approval. Sometimes there are emergencies. I have toyed with various consequences for emergency legislation, such as calling for an immediate election, right then; or throwing legislators in jail if they vote for emergency legislation which is later found unconstitutional.

    If half the legislators in any chamber sign up for repeal, the law is voided immediately. In other words, once a bill becomes law, a repeal petition is created, and the moment it gets half any chamber’s legislators to sign up, the law is repealed. This is primarily to throw out those 90% emergency laws when legislators consciences wake up.

    1. Pending repeal of all legislation passed since 1789, in the interim why not require the repeal of at least 10 laws of word length equal to the law being passed for each piece of new legislation or each new amendment to existing legislation.

  12. And Senator Paul’s resolution has overwhelming Democrat support, right? Because this is exactly what they’re wanting. Well, what they say they are wanting.

    And of course they’ll continue to enforce said rule when they get control back, right?

    1. Democrats aren’t in charge of anything. Bitching at them for what Republicans are doing seems a bit partisan.

      1. This may amaze you, but Democrat Senators are still permitted to vote in the Senate. Whatever they may have told you at Daily Kos. They can still support the resolution, both while they’re in the minority and later when they regain the majority (which is bound to happen sooner or later).

        If they don’t I’ll find that rather curious.

  13. Paul, Lee, and Cruz seem to be the only Senators worth a tinker’s damn.

  14. “Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that people won’t appreciate how great the Democrat’s health plan is until after it passes.

    You’ve heard about the controversies, the process about the bill?but I don’t know if you’ve heard that it is legislation for the future ? not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America,” she told the National Association of Counties annual legislative conference, which has drawn about 2,000 local officials to Washington. “But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it ? away from the fog of the controversy.”

    After years of hearing people bitch about Pelosi’s comment I think it’s great Team R is going to double down.

  15. Great idea! Too often legislation is snuck in without full participation , and it is usually bad legislation that can not stand examination and inspection.

  16. I thought our elected representatives were illiterate.

    Isn’t that why they encourage lobbyists and staff to write legislation and do not read bills before voting?

    Rand assumes too much.

  17. The so called opposition is just a fig leaf to let a few of them seem tough. They’ll buckle like a belt as soon as the vote comes around.

  18. Stop protecting the insurance, medical, and pharmacutical industries. Get out of the business entirely. Use medicade and care to cover those left in the lurch and let the market do its thing.
    These people are so out of control. What part of Constitutional Law allows for this sort of intrusion and control? Where do these “people” get the authority to protect industries from the harm they do to people?

    They plan in secret and then force a vote before it is even read? 131 pages and there is more crap to be added to get the politics done?
    I’m pretty sure that the politicians would not want to hear my real idea’s. We The People are so stupid to allow this crap!!!!

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