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Bernie Sanders calls out Senate Republicans for secrecy surrounding health care negotiations

The Vermont senator calls for transparency, and for Democrats to oppose bill

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders address Brooklyn College’s graduates during their commencement ceremony on May 30, 2017, in New York. Sanders urged graduates to stand together and not let demagogues divide the country. CREDIT: AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) on Sunday blasted his Republican colleagues for secretly negotiating their Obamacare replacement bill behind closed doors and without public scrutiny, calling on Democrats to take a stand against the legislation.

“This is completely unacceptable,” Sanders told CBS “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson. “Nobody can defend a process, which will impact tens of millions of Americans, and nobody even knows what’s in the [legislation]…The reason they don’t want to bring it public is because it’s a disastrous bill, I suspect similar to what passed in the House.”

The outcome of the secret negotiations would impact about one sixth of the American economy, pointed out Sanders, who similarly slammed the House bill, which passed in May.

“It was the worst piece of legislation, frankly, against working class people that I can remember in my political life in the Congress. Throwing 23 million people off of health insurance is beyond belief,” said Sanders.

As ThinkProgress reporter Amanda Michelle Gomez reported earlier this month, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is rushing to bring the Republican health care bill before the Senate for a vote by July 4, before Congress leaves for August recess.

To that end, McConnell fast-tracked the health bill by implementing Senate “Rule 14”, which allows the Senate to bypass the committee process — and thus a full committee debate — by placing it on the senate calendar for a vote.

Even many Republicans are being kept in the dark said Sanders, noting that this tactic underscores issues with the bill that Republicans would have difficulty defending, such as cutting Medicaid in favor of giving tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.

“So they want to keep it secret, they don’t want the media involved, they don’t want members of Congress involved,” Sanders told Dickerson. “And at the last minute they present it, they push it through and that is one sixth of the American economy and millions of people thrown off of health insurance. That is unacceptable.”

The closed-door process has Republicans concerned as well.

“I’ve said from Day 1, and I’ll say it again,” Senator Bob Corker, Republican of Tennessee, told the New York Times. “The process is better if you do it in public, and that people get buy-in along the way and understand what’s going on. Obviously, that’s not the route that is being taken.”

McConnell defended his approach, telling the New York Times there have been “gazillions of hearings on this subject” over the years.

For Sanders, the only solution is full transparency, and on Sunday he called on Democrats to “do everything they can to oppose” the Senate bill.

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