House Republicans thought they were writing a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare. Instead, on Thursday, they found themselves running a traveling circus.
Following reports that a major chunk of their health-care legislation was being held for House GOP review in a secret room somewhere in the Capitol complex, Democrats and Republicans who hadn’t been invited started the hunt. Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican, was first on the scene of the supposed secret location.
“It’s the secret office of the secret bill,” Paul told a gaggle of reporters. After being denied entry by a security guard and staff aide, he quickly turned the moment into an impromptu press conference about legislation transparency.
“I suspect public pressure will make them release it,” he said.
Except, as it turned out, the bill wasn’t there. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady was in the room, but the Texas Republican said the bill wasn’t.
The audience gathered outside — including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland — was skeptical, so in they went to inspect. Out they came about 30 seconds afterward.
“No bill here. We cannot find the bill,” Hoyer said.
One Republican lawmaker and a committee aide had said Wednesday that House Republicans would be allowed to review the overhaul plan — but only in a dedicated reading room, and they wouldn’t be given copies to take with them. Republican leaders are trying to avoid a repeat of what happened last time. When an outdated draft leaked last week, it was quickly panned by conservatives.