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Republicans are facing increasing pressure to make details of 'Obamacare Lite' public

Eliza Relman
Rand Paul

(Rand PaulDrew Angerer/Getty Images)
Republicans are facing increasing bipartisan pressure to reveal the details of their Obamacare repeal and replace bill, which may be ready for House committee markup next week. 

Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul is leading the fight to make the bill public. On Thursday, Paul, tailed by a pack of reporters, led a scavenger hunt through the Capitol for the bill, which is being kept in a "secure location." 

“This is being presented as if it were a national secret, as it if it were a plot to invade another country," Paul told reporters as he tried to get into the Republican office where the bill was reportedly being held. "That's wrong. It should be done openly in the public."

Paul rolled a copy machine with him through the building, hoping to get his hands on a paper copy of the legislation. 

Democratic Rep. Paul Tonko joined Paul on the chase, saying he wants to read the bill "because it’s affecting one-sixth of the economy."

Depite lawmakers' complaints, the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which is drafting the bill, is continuing to keep it hidden. On Friday morning, Paul tweeted that he was not giving up on the hunt.

A draft of the bill, leaked to Politico last week, was met with strong criticism from a coalition of House and Senate Republicans, who argued it did not go far enough in repealing the Affordable Care Act. 

Paul called the draft bill "Obamacare Lite" and Rep. Mark Meadows tweeted last week, "Every tax, every mandate, every regulation of #Obamacare needs to go."

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz is accusing Republicans of reneging on their promises to radically alter the ACA. 

"2 yrs ago, the GOP Congress voted to repeal Obamacare. That 2015 repeal language should be the floor, the bare minimum," Cruz tweeted last week

The House committee distanced itself from the leaked draft, which it said was outdated and no longer "viable."

Republicans are internally divided over what a replacement law should look like and are particularly at odds over funding for Medicaid, the expansion of which has provided insurance for 12 million more Americans under the ACA.

Conservative lawmakers, including Sen. Paul, Cruz, and Mike Lee, are pressing for a full repeal of the ACA and a replacement that looks nothing like it. But GOP lawmakers from states in which Medicaid has expanded under the ACA are opposed to any law that would cut funding from coverage for low income individuals.

While the GOP only needs a simple 51-vote majority to pass the Senate, without Paul, Cruz, and Lee, the party would not have enough votes to pass the legislation. 

In the days leading up to the inauguration, Trump promised a swift repeal and replace, but has recently indicated the process will be slower. 

"Nobody knew that healthcare would be this complicated," Trump told a meeting of governors last week.

During Trump's address to a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night, he laid out a few basic principles of a future law, including using tax credits to help individuals buy insurance and allowing for the purchase of coverage across state borders. But his speech provided little clarity as to what specific legislation the administration would support. 

 Bob Bryan contributed to this story.

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