To highlight the secrecy of the GOP health-care deliberations, many Senate Democrats have pointed out that the debate over the Affordable Care Act was the second-longest consecutive session in Senate history. Schumer even sought a parliamentary inquiry on the claim, and it was confirmed by the presiding officer, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa.)
“The Secretary of the Senate’s office notes that H.R. 3590 was considered on each of 25 consecutive days of session, and the Senate Library estimates approximately 169 hours in total consideration,” she said.
The longest session, Feb. 12-March 9, 1917, concerned whether to arm merchant ships during World War I, shortly before the United States entered the conflict. That lasted 26 days.
But this statistic obscures a reality: The key work on creating the Senate version of the ACA was done in secret. Let’s take a trip down memory lane.
To reconstruct this history, as we did in a previous fact check, we reviewed news coverage of the period and transcripts, and also relied on a detailed account of the legislative maneuvering compiled by John Cannan, research and instructional services librarian at Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law. His report, published in the Law Library Journal, made the case that the “ad hoc” process that led to the ACA is “an illustrative example of modern lawmaking, especially for major initiatives.”
The biggest difference between the Democratic effort to reshape health care in 2009-2010 and the Republican effort to undermine that achievement is that the Democrats made full use of the committee process. Republicans have skipped the days of hearings and lengthy markups that were a feature of the crafting of Obamacare.