DAVENPORT — Amid Democrats’ complaints Senate Republicans are acting in secret on a bill to replace the Affordable Care Act, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, defended the process and said the criticism is “overblown.”
Grassley, on a conference call with Iowa reporters, said Wednesday he had not seen the bill. But he said at thrice-weekly Republican luncheons and at private meetings with GOP senators the issue has been discussed, with the contents of those discussions often shared.
“I think the transparency issue has been somewhat overblown,” he said.
Democrats argue in drafting the Affordable Care Act there were multiple hearings, ample floor debate and there were months of bipartisan discussions with Republicans.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the floor Wednesday this time the GOP is drafting the bill in secret and allowing only 10 hours of floor debate.
“I’ve never seen a more radical or reckless legislative process in my time in politics,” he said.
Grassley, who chaired the Senate Finance Committee at the time, acknowledged Wednesday he took part in talks with Democrats over the Affordable Care Act. But he complained “very significant” changes were made to the legislation by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and introduced on the floor of the Senate just days before a vote was taken.
Grassley also argued it was important Republicans act quickly because of what he said were flaws in the Affordable Care Act, including insurers fleeing marketplaces. Just one company has said it intends to sell policies in Iowa in 2018.
“I think getting things done as quickly as we can is very important,” he said. He added, too, the Senate Republican leadership plans to allow amendments to be offered on the bill.
Senate Republicans are pushing for a vote on the legislation before the July 4 recess. That means the bill could come to a vote next week.
In addition to Democrats, some Republicans have complained about not seeing the bill too.
Grassley also told reporters big social reforms result from bipartisanship and the Affordable Care Act was partisan. It passed with just Democratic votes. However, Grassley acknowledged the Republican bill probably wouldn’t draw any votes from Democrats either.
Grassley accused Democrats of not wanting to be involved, but Democrats have rejected that idea and said they have asked to be included multiple times.