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Cassidy is 'sorry' about the Cassidy-Graham process. He should be.

Dana Milbank on

WASHINGTON -- Maybe the Senate janitor's closet was already booked?

For Monday's hearing on the Cassidy-Graham bill to repeal Obamacare -- the one and only hearing scheduled on the measure -- Republicans trying to hurry it through Congress gave every sign that they did not want to be noticed.

Senate hearing rooms that could have fit hundreds were left idle Monday afternoon, and instead Republicans chose one that could fit just 30 members of the public, leaving hundreds waiting in the hall outside. Many reporters, too, were turned away -- the better to avoid scrutiny.

Or so they thought. But the attempt at concealment backfired.

The moment Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hammered the gavel, about 20 disabilities rights activists in the room -- the bulk of the public gallery -- broke into a chant: "No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty!"

Hatch hammered the gavel, ineffectually. After 10 minutes, he called a recess. Capitol Police cuffed the activists, several in wheelchairs, and carried or wheeled them from the room.

Hatch returned after seven minutes and started scolding: "If you can't be in order then get the heck out! … Shut that door and keep it shut!"

Who he was yelling at wasn't clear, because after the mayhem the cops had allowed only five spectators to remain in the room -- and three of them looked like lobbyists.

That's right: Five members of the public allowed to witness the lone hearing for a plan that would cut more than a trillion dollars from health care, deny health insurance to millions and dump the whole health-care mess on ill-equipped states.

"I'm so sorry about this process," Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), the Cassidy in Cassidy-Graham, testified to the panel.

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