The state’s Congressional delegation is revealing little about their positions on the Republican U.S. Senate proposal to roll back much of the Affordable Care Act. Senator Tom Cotton was one of a select few lawmakers to draft the bill in secret but even he has not commented extensively on the proposal. During a KUAR interview on Friday related to Cuba policy, U.S. Representative Rick Crawford of east Arkansas’s 1st District said he hasn’t read the Senate plan yet but appreciates that it’s moving quickly.
“It would be unfair of me to make any kind of a characterization, or contrast or comparison [to the House approved plan] because I simply haven’t read it. Anything I could add or comments I could make would probably be inappropriate at this time having not had eyes on the bill myself,” said Crawford. “It would be prudent to reserve judgment at this time.”
Crawford did feel comfortable commenting on the general process. The plan’s creation, lambasted by Democrats calling for a open discussion with hearings and amendments, involved 13 GOP Senators drafting the bill behind closed doors. GOP Senate leaders want a vote as early as next week. The Congressional Budget Office hasn’t yet had time to report on the cost and impact of the plan.
“I don’t fault them for moving expeditiously and quite frankly one of the things we routinely chide the Senate for is their inability to move quickly. When they start to move quickly we probably ought to welcome that,” said Crawford. “Obamacare is in its final stages of implosion….it’s prudent to move with as much speed as they can muster.”
If the plan does get Senate approval, Crawford said he’s confident House member will have time to mark up the bill. But Crawford wants it to move fast.
“Hopefully that’ll be a quick process as well. We don’t want to drag this out and create more drama where it’s not necessary. Hopefully this will all move and come together as quickly as possible,” said Crawford.
Arkansas Democratic Party Chairman Michael John Gray, on the other hand, says it is important in this case to adopt a slower approach.
“When you’re talking about people’s lives, talking about their healthcare, talking about the ability of a single mom working two jobs with three kids—the ability of her to get quality healthcare for herself, for her three children—I think that requires some time to make sure we do it right,” Gray said.
Gray, who says insurance premiums and prescription drug costs are often too high for many Americans and Arkansans, is also especially critical of the bill’s elimination of Medicaid expansion.
KUAR requested a response this week from Sen. Boozman and Sen. Cotton's office.
KUAR's Chris Hickey contributed to this report.