NASHVILLE — Tennessee Democrats are turning up the heat on the state's two Republican U.S. senators — Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker — for participating in secretive GOP efforts to develop an Obamacare repeal bill that could be on the Senate floor as early as next week.
"This is inexcusable," state Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini said Monday. "This is not the way government is supposed to work."
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., hopes to put the measure up for a vote next week before Congress departs for its July 4 recess, according to multiple news accounts.
Senate Democrats charge they've been locked out of discussions and just last week Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Commission, publicly complained to the panel's chairman, Alexander, that no public hearings on the Senate GOP's measure had been held.
Tennessee Democrats, meanwhile, say if the Senate GOP version is anything like the House-passed American Health Care Act, hundreds of thousands of working Tennesseans who obtained health insurance under Obama's Affordable Care Act could face soaring premiums that threaten their ability to maintain coverage.
Democrats and other advocates say the House GOP's impact on Medicaid, which provides coverage to the poor, could hurt beneficiaries through spending caps establishing set amounts the federal government sends to states. That includes, they say, the elderly poor who are on both Medicare as well as Medicaid.
"I am concerned that our senators and our 3rd District congressman [U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann] are not supportive," said state Rep. JoAnne Favors, D-Chattanooga, a retired nurse. "Because we have some very sick people and poor people in Tennessee, and I think if you're genuinely concerned about the people and the health of the citizens in Tennessee that you'll look askance at repealing the entire act.
"I do not think it has been transparent enough," Favors said. "We don't know anything that's been done."
A spokeswoman for Alexander said "for the last several years, Senator Alexander has been meeting regularly with Tennesseans about health care issues. When the U.S. Senate Budget Committee finishes writing the bill, it will be evaluated by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, and all 100 senators will have a virtually unlimited ability to amend it on the Senate floor."
Corker spokeswoman Micah Johnson, meanwhile, emphasized "the Senate will not be voting on the House-passed American Health Care Act," which has raised much of the alarms.
Rather, Johnson said, the Senate "is in the process of writing its own bill. Senator Corker remains involved in those discussions. He does wish the process included public hearings and has consistently communicated that to Senate leadership but does not lead any of the committees of jurisdiction.
"He will continue to work with his colleagues to resolve the issues that are driving up health care costs, limiting choices, and creating uncertainty in the individual market," Johnson added.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.relatedarticlethumb