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No, Nancy Pelosi Never Said Obamacare Was Secret: Clip And Save!
Say it a little louder, please
Now that Senate Republicans seem intent on writing their version of the American Health Care Act in complete secrecy, we're seeing a lot of people on Twitter and Facebook and in line at the grocery store and every possible other place you can imagine saying the Senate's closed-door effort to dismantle Obamacare and leave tens of millions of Americans with no health insurance is no different at all from that time Nancy Pelosi said "We have to pass it [the ACA bill] so you can see what's in it." Herewith, we bring you a handy guide to debunking the mythology around that much-abused quote, which has become rightwing shorthand for "Democrats are dumb 'cause they voted on a huge healthcare law without even knowing what was in it " and "Obamacare was written in secrecy and forced on unsuspecting Americans" and of course the popular "Haw-Haw, Nancy Pelosi is a dumb bitch."
Please to bookmark this sucker for future reference; you'll want to keep it handy to send to your lovely sister-in-law whom you love and it is not her fault she was fed misinformation, since that partial and out-of-context quote -- often modified to "We have to pass the bill so we can see what's in it" to make Pelosi seem even more clueless -- has taken on the folkloric equivalence of fact for wingnuts. We don't have any illusions that mere facts and context will change rightwing minds, but it's possible some people honestly don't know there's anything to that infamous line beyond the mythologized version. So let's Wonksplain!
Let's do the summary first, because what we're debunking is a bad summary of a Republican lie about the Affordable Care Act. Then we'll get into the details. So: The Republicans want us to believe the details of the ACA were hidden in a bill that was written in secret and Democrats crammed down America's throat without even knowing its contents. That's the lie. What Pelosi was actually getting at was something very different. Pelosi was saying that once the bill passed and Americans saw what was in it, they'd like it. Really! Now let's look at the full quote and the context in which Pelosi said it.
The full comment, which appeared in a March 9, 2010, speech by Pelosi to the National Association of Counties, went like this:
You’ve heard about the controversies within the bill, the process about the bill, one or the other items. But I don’t know if you have heard that it is legislation for the future, not just about health care for America, but about a healthier America, where preventive care is not something that you have to pay a deductible for or out of pocket. Prevention, prevention, prevention -- it’s about diet, not diabetes.
It’s going to be very, very exciting. But we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it, away from the fog of the controversy.
So, no. She wasn't saying Democrats had no idea what was in the bill, or that it was a secret. She was telling an audience of people in local government that even though there had been a lot of controversy around the ACA, once people began to see how it improved care and covered more people, they'd like it. That's even clearer when you look at the rest of Pelosi's speech, which actually detailed some of the key features of the ACA -- rather difficult to do if she didn't know what was in it.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Tuesday that people won’t appreciate how great the Democrat’s health plan is until after it passes.
Funny thing: Now that Republicans want to roll back the progress made with the ACA -- like record low percentages of uninsured Americans, a decline in the bankruptcy rate due to medical bills, and even a reduction in the rate of increase in health insurance costs -- it turns out people have indeed seen what the ACA does, and while they want improvements, they don't want it to vanish. And opposition to the Republican healthcare bill continues to increase -- even among Republican voters.
Let's be clear: What the Republicans are doing in the Senate is nothing like how the ACA was passed. As people who worked on the bill keep reminding us, the ACA was passed only after a very thorough, very public process, with open hearings in the House and Senate, hundreds of witnesses for and against various provisions, and over 160 Republican amendments to the bill. And, as Topher Spiro of the Center for American Progress notes, it didn't just get one score from the Congressional Budget Office:
In both the House and the Senate, “scores” by the independent Congressional Budget Office were available before each vote at each stage of the process. These scores are estimates of the effects of legislation on the budget and on the number of people who would be covered by health insurance.
At each major stage of the ACA's drafting, the latest versions of the bill text were publicly available, as were the CBO scores. By the time the final vote was taken, the ACA's contents had been public for months.
The Republicans are literally trying to pass the AHCA without having released the text of the bill to the full Senate -- even as they've sent the draft to the CBO, they still won't let Democrats look at it. There have been no hearings, and no debate, and Mitch McConnell wants it voted on next week.
Oh, but Nancy Pelosi said a thing that got chopped down to a ten-second clip, so none of that other stuff happened.
In conclusion: No, Pelosi never said Dems had to pass the bill to find out what was in it. Also, Al Gore never said he invented the internet (he said he pushed key legislation that helped build it, and he did ), and for bipartisan truth-checking, Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her house (she said you can see Russia from some Alaskan islands).
Also, Captain Kirk never said "Beam me up, Scotty." But he often wanted to be beamed up, because the Federation had excellent universal healthcare.
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