People Are Noticing What's Missing From These Newspaper Front Pages

June 13th 2017

Kyle Jaeger

The GOP plan to repeal and replace Obamacare is quickly and quietly heading to a Senate vote–but you might've missed that if you rely on the country's major newspapers

Vox reporter Jeff Stein on Tuesday noted the absence of front-page coverage focusing on the health care bill in a series of tweets.

There are at least two things that could explain this.

1. Daily coverage of the investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election—and possible ties between Russia and the Trump campaign—has diverted attention from the health care debate. Last week, fired FBI Director James Comey's testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday eclipsed news about the Senate's move to fast-track a vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA) through a congressional process known as "reconciliation."

In a tweet, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) implored voters to focus just 10 percent of their attention on Tuesday's Senate hearing, where Attorney General Jeff Sessions will testify about Russian interference in the election, and to direct 90 percent of their focus to "the secret health care bill that is speeding to a vote."

2. Senate Republicans are keeping the health care bill close to their chests, refusing to let the public or even their Senate colleagues see their version of the House bill until the last minute. The secrecy surrounding the Senate health care process has been a source of contention on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) blasting Republicans for operating behind closed doors.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the secrecy was intentional and meant to leave constituents in the dark about a bill that would roll back Medicaid expansion and offer tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans.

So what is happening with the GOP health care plan?

  • The Senate is expected to finish drafting its version of AHCA this week. But don't expect the draft to be made publicly available any time soon, Axios reported on Monday.
  • After the draft is completed, the Senate is required to submit the bill to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), which will take about two weeks to score the bill. Senate Republicans want to get their version of the legislation drafted and scored with enough time to schedule a vote before July 4, when Congress goes on recess.
  • Republicans could use "reconciliation" to attach the health care bill to the federal budget, avoiding a Democratic filibuster and reducing the threshold required for passage from 60 to 51 votes.