No hearing for Senate health bill, and Murkowski says no sighting either

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski isn’t not happy with the fast-track process the Senate Majority leader is using to bring a health care bill to the floor without any hearings, she said.

Murkowski, a member of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, would have a chance to work on the bill if it were going through the normal committee process.

But it isn’t.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has invoked what’s called Rule 14, which could send the bill directly to the Senate floor with little or no chance for amendments.

“Do I think that’s the best way to go? No, I’m a process person,” Murkowski said. She also hasn’t seen the bill yet, she said, and mostly hears details about it from reporters who surround her in the corridors.

“Yeah, I got a problem with it,” she said of the process. “If I’m not going to see a bill before we have a vote on it, that’s just not a good way to handle something that is as significant and important as health care.”

McConnell couldn’t say when senators would see the bill or whether they were on track to pass it before the end of the month, as he wants.

“You know, I’m not going to answer that with specificity,” he told reporters Tuesday. “Our goal here is to move forward quickly. The status quo is unsustainable.”

Alaska has by far the highest health care costs in the country.

Under current law, Alaskans who buy insurance on the individual market can get bigger subsidies to offset the high cost. The health care bill the House passed would replace the subsidies with tax credits that vary only by age, not location. The bill House also would move a lot of Medicaid costs to the states.

It’s not clear how closely the Senate bill drafters will stick to the House version.

Murkowski said she’s had plenty of opportunities to discuss Alaska’s specific needs with the senators who are working on the bill behind closed doors.

“Whether I’m invited into every meeting or not, when I’ve got something to say, I say it,” she said.

But has she heard whether her concerns will be addressed in the legislation?

“I don’t know because I have no idea if we even have a bill!” she said.

Murkowski and other Republican senators had lunch at the White House to discuss health care. She was seated right next to the president.

Video footage shows she wasn’t sitting squarely in her chair when the president was talking. Social media erupted with speculation that she was trying to distance herself.

Murkowski says she was just turned in her seat to see the president better.

“I’m an active listener, and I like to look at people when they’re talking.”

Alaska Public Media

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