Just after the House passed the American Health Care Act on Thursday, an emotional Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., described it as a “tough day for the country” and sharply criticized the tactics employed by Republicans to pass the legislation as a secretive “political stunt.”
“If you’re proud of a bill, you get out there and you sell it,” Kennedy said in an interview with Yahoo News Global Anchor Katie Couric. “You stand behind it. You engage people with it, and you’re willing to win the argument.”
Instead, Kennedy emphasized, the amended House bill has not yet been scored by the Congressional Budget Office and had undergone a number of last-minute changes that he said left the American public uninformed about its content.
The Republicans’ first attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act crashed and burned in March. A vote on the AHCA was abruptly withdrawn when it became clear that the legislation lacked sufficient support, particularly from the influential Freedom Caucus, to pass in the House. It was revived this month with a number of changes tailored to attracting both moderate and conservative members. Kennedy called its passage a “political deal between wings of a Republican party.”
Commenting on the White House Rose Garden Ceremony held after the vote to celebrate the bill’s passage, Kennedy said, “I struggle to understand how anyone could define victory as taking away health care from 24 million people.”
Though Kennedy acknowledged that the AHCA’s path to becoming law is “not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination” and predicted that the legislation will “need a massive overhaul to get through the Senate,” he characterized its passage in the House as an alarming first step and defended his Democratic colleagues who faced criticism for opposing the bill outright rather than collaborating with Republicans.
“We haven’t engaged because they haven’t engaged and they don’t want our engagement,” he said.
An animated Kennedy stressed that “this fight is not over” and made a plea to his colleagues in Congress.
“You’ve got a moral obligation as leaders of our government to make sure that every single person gets access to health care in the richest nation on the planet, not to somehow divide our country up into the healthy and the sick and say to the sick and the frail and the elderly, ‘You’re on your own; hope you saved enough,’” Kennedy said.
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