UPDATE: The editorial board of the Denver Post essentially calls on Gardner to grow a spine:
Gardner needs to demand more transparency from his colleagues and be one of the two “no” votes that could stop this nonsense. The senator is a member of the panel that helped draft the bill, which put him in a place to demand much of the legislation. We’re told he’s been working behind the scenes to take input from the medical providers and experts in Colorado to make sure their concerns are reflected in the final version of the bill.
“Working behind the scenes?” That’s pretty generous to Gardner based on the Senator’s own words below…
Blair Miller of Denver7 has been quietly making noise on the political beat in Colorado for several months now, but today he made a career quantum leap with a detailed interview with Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) about the Senate healthcare legislation currently — and mysteriously — winding its way through Capitol Hill.
Among the many significant revelations in Miller’s interview with Gardner comes this stunning revelation: Gardner admits that he hasn’t even seen the text of the Senate healthcare legislation. Think about that for a minute. For months we have been led to believe that Gardner was heavily involved in crafting the Senate healthcare bill as one of the original “Group of 13” organized by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This was the next logical question to ask on the healthcare debate after Utah Sen. Mike Lee — also allegedly among the “select group” of 13 — admitted that he didn’t know what was in the legislation that McConnell is reportedly trying to rush to the floor before the July 4 holiday. Denver7’s Miller asked that question, and much, much more:
U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner, who is one of a handful of Senate Republicans working in small groups to craft the Senate’s version of the American Health Care Act, said Wednesday he has still not seen a text version of the bill just a week before the full chamber is set to vote on it.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Wednesday the text of the Senate’s version of the bill will likely be released Thursday, and that a vote on the bill is likely to happen before Congress goes on its July 4 holiday recess.
Gardner confirmed that he knew only what McConnell has so far said about the timing of the bill’s release and a vote.
“I have not [seen the bill’s text],” he told Denver7. “And what I’ve been told is a discussion draft will be released tomorrow, but I’ve not seen language or finalized language.” [Pols emphasis]
This is absolutely not a good look for Gardner, who has spent weeks championing a theoretical Senate bill on Trumpcare that he may or may not have even played a role in crafting.
Denver7 has posted a full transcript of Miller’s interview with Gardner, which apparently took place at 10:00 am (Mountain Time) this morning. We’d strongly encourage you to read the entire interview yourself, but after the jump we’ll break down some of the key pieces of this explosive discussion…
Denver7 reporter Blair Miller interviews Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) on the pending healthcare legislation in the U.S. Senate. Take a look at some of the highlights:
♦ After Gardner admits he hasn’t seen any proposed legislative text, Miller asks Gardner to explain what, exactly, the Senate “working group” on healthcare has been doing for the last two months. Gardner replies with some boilerplate gobbledegook about “working groups,” which leads to this exchange:
MILLER: What concerns have you brought to the table in those working groups?
GARDNER: Yeah you know it goes back to the letter that I signed earlier on in the year. I’ve talked about making sure that we bring stability into the marketplace, competition into the marketplace. Because Colorado has 14 counties that only have one insurer to choose from. And that could even be more over the next year, and that’s unacceptable.
So we have to have more stability in the insurance market, more competition. I’ve talked about my concerns about rural health care, making sure that we put in solutions to enhance rural health care. And I’ve talked about my concerns over a Medicaid transition. That if they pursue a Medicaid transitions where the states take over the Medicaid program, to make sure the states have the full functionality, flexibility that they need in a transition period that is long enough for them to do it seamlessly.
Gardner begins his answer by talking about a letter he signed earlier this year in which a handful of Senators argued that Medicaid needed to be protected. Gardner has since been all over the map on Medicaid, and he ends his answer to Miller’s question by essentially abandoning the idea that Medicaid should be protected in favor of an argument for a “transition period” out of the program.
♦ When Miller tries to get an answer about when the Senate may vote on healthcare legislation, Gardner completely abdicates any sort of role in the process:
MILLER: We talk about as the bill progresses — do you think you guys are going to vote before the July 4 holiday?
GARDNER: That’s what Sen. McConnell has said. You might want to check with his office for further clarification on that, but that’s what Sen. McConnell has said.
This is a completely obvious question for Miller to ask — Gardner, after all, is part of the “working group” on the legislation — yet Gardner decides to pretend that he has no idea what is going on in the Senate. Weird.
MILLER: And what are your thoughts on that — if the bill gets indeed released tomorrow, voting a week after the bill gets released to the public?
GARDNER: Yeah, I mean we’ll obviously have to look at the Congressional Budget Office numbers. I want to talk to some of the private insurers to see what impact they believe it will have. Some of the ideas in the bill, the insurance companies believe they would be able to reduce their insurance rates as a result. But we have to have that information and need to have a better understanding of it.
Here, Gardner all but states that he really has no idea how the proposed legislation might impact insurance companies, though he goes out of his way to make sure to mention that he will talk with them first. This leads Miller to a question about whether Gardner is considering the impact of healthcare legislation on actual, you know, people.
MILLER: I understand that there is a bottom line with these insurance companies, but is there a gray area between looking out for them and looking out for people who might lose insurance?
GARDNER: Well I think hopefully, I mean if you look at what happened, 500,000 Coloradans had their health plans canceled as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Millions nationwide have had their plans canceled as a result of the Affordable Care Act.
Hundreds of thousands more have insurance that they cannot use because they can’t afford the deductible.
And so what we have to address is the access. Because you can have insurance but still not have access to utilize that insurance. And so that’s what we have to do. Right now, the average rate increase across the country is 105%. That means that insurance rates have risen two times on a national average what they were six years ago when the Affordable Care Act passed.
Now remember, when the Affordable Care Act passed, they promised that it would lower the average household insurance rates by $2,500. And so what we have to do is stabilize the marketplace, bring in more competition, and allow people to actually have access to their insurance.
The other idea is this: the only proposal that we’ve seen offered by Democrats is the Sanders solution, which is universal care. What we ought to be doing instead of trying to push everyone into Medicaid. [Pols emphasis]
What we ought to be doing is trying to create an economy that has better-paying jobs, that has jobs with great benefits. And that’s really got to be part of this discussion too.
Incredibly, Gardner just completely shat on the idea of protecting Medicaid — just mere minutes after beginning his interview with Miller by talking about how he signed onto a letter to protect Medicaid.
Oh, and then Gardner talks about how people need better-paying jobs. APROPOS OF ABSOLUTELY NOTHING.
♦ At this point in the interview, Miller tries to get an answer from Gardner about why the Senate has been so secretive in the healthcare process — which is a criticism that Gardner spent years (albeit inaccurately) hurling at Democrats over Obamacare.
MILLER: You talk about the plan from Democrats, but Republicans hold the White House and both chambers of Congress. So, many have argued, why are Republicans being secretive in this process? Why haven’t you seen a bill yet?
GARDNER: There have been – yeah, we’re having those discussions on the bill. I think it ought to be an open process, and I’d like to see an open, transparent process. And I’m reminded of Nancy Pelosi, when she said, “We have to pass a bill to know what’s in the bill.” And I think Democrats, instead of being obstructionists in this, I hope they’ll be able to find common ground with Republicans so we can have a bipartisan solution.
Again, Republicans control the House, the Senate, AND the White House…yet all Gardner can do in response to a question about transparency is to blame the minority party???
To Miller’s credit, he doesn’t let Gardner off the hook just yet:
MILLER: And, you know, you obviously play a role in all of this too. Have you gone to leadership? Have you gone to McConnell and told him that we need to have this out in the open, and why is this not out in the open?
GARDNER: Just yesterday, yeah. Just yesterday at the conference meeting, it was talked about the need to have more time and transparency.
Gardner says he has “talked” to other Senators about the need for more time and transparency. “Just yesterday” he talked about it! Yet…the Senate bill is still being rushed along and kept in the dark. Gardner might as well have just said, Well, listen, nobody actually pays any attention to me whatsoever.
Miller still won’t give up on trying to get some actual answers from Gardner, and this is where the interview really starts to be a problem for the Senator from Yuma…
MILLER: So has the bill been sent over to the CBO yet?
GARDNER: So I think, Blair, what they’ve been doing – you’d have to access McConnell’s office for that exact answer. What I think they’re doing is sending ideas or concepts to the Congressional Budget Office and getting a score as they send elements of the bill over.
At least that’s what they said they’re doing. [Pols emphasis]
In short, Gardner keeps saying, Why are you asking me about the Senate healthcare bill? I mean, I know I’m a Senator and I’m in the “working group” that is supposed to be crafting the legislation, but how would I know the answers to these questions???
Despite this nonsense from Gardner — or, perhaps, because of it — Miller keeps pressing…
MILLER: I’m still hearing a lot of “This is what they say they’re doing.” And you talk about transparency and the Democrats in forming the ACA back in ’09 and 2010. But the bill was posted in October after Pelosi said her thing, and then, you know, the final vote didn’t happen until 9 or 10 months later. There were hundreds of amendments offered, hundreds of open hearings. What’s the difference this time?
GARDNER: Well, you know, I would remind you that there was not a single Republican vote on that measure.
MILLER: I realize there wasn’t a Republican vote, but there was still discussion with Republicans. I mean Obama sat in front of all of Congress and talked with Republicans for hours.
GARDNER: I’m not arguing. I agree with you. There should be more discussion. There should be an open pro[cess] — that’s what you and I are agreeing on.
I totally agree with you on whatever you are saying. Wait, what ARE you saying? What am I saying?
♦ Here it comes…Gardner makes his full “Con Man Cory” transformation…
MILLER: OK, but what can you tell people in that case? If we’re just putting this all on McConnell, is there any other Republicans who are going to take this blame?
GARDNER: Blame for…
MILLER: …For not having any transparency in this process.
GARDNER: Well, now, look, I think what we have to do is remember why we’re in this discussion. And that’s to make sure that we save the American people from the Affordable Care Act that is collapsing.
MILLER: OK. So…Is there any way you wouldn’t vote for this bill?
GARDNER: If it’s bad policy, I won’t support it. I need to see the legislation. I’m going to read the legislation and find out how it works.
Cory Gardner actually just said this: “I’m going to read the legislation and find out how it works.”
Miller would appear to be growing frustrated with Gardner’s non-answers to every question he asks — this is a virtual Abbot and Costello routine at this point — yet he gamely trudges onward…
MILLER: But what would be considered bad policy to you?
GARDNER: Well if it’s something that doesn’t solve the problems of Obamacare.
MILLER: But specifically…
GARDNER: Well, OK so if it doesn’t work to reduce the cost of insurance. If it doesn’t create market stability. If it doesn’t create a sustainable path for Medicaid, that’s not going to be something that I can support.
“Sustainable path for Medicaid” is not at all the same thing as “protecting Medicaid.”
♦ After another bowl of word salad from Gardner, Miller asks about the process of “reconciliation,” should the Senate pass some sort of bill that could then be merged with the House AHCA passed in early May. Incredibly, Gardner makes it clear — again — that he has no idea what the hell is going on.
MILLER: And so we talk about the reconciliation process and the concurrence process — is this just going to turn into a game of volleyball between the House and Senate?
GARDNER: You know, I think it depends. I mean, you could go to a conference committee and the conference committee could hammer it out. The other option is to see if the House will pass the Senate bill, and that can volley back and forth.
My guess is they’ll go to a conference committee, but I just don’t know. [Pols emphasis]
♦ Miller’s interview with Gardner concludes in really the most appropriate way possible — with a Gardner staffer essentially yelling, Hey, look over there!
GARDNER’S SPOKESPERSON: Hey Blair, we have about 30 seconds if you want to talk North Korea…
And, there you have it, folks. Senator Cory Gardner has no idea what is happening with a Senate healthcare bill that he is supposed to be in charge of helping to craft.
When the going gets tough in Congress…Gardner doesn’t know where he’s going. At all.