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Lawmakers Hunt The Capitol For An Obamacare Bill Moved Between Secret Locations

Speaker Paul Ryan says Republicans are unified behind the secret Obamacare replacement plan, but lawmakers were searching in vain for the bill on Thursday. The committee working on the bill says it is still a work in progress.

Posted on March 2, 2017, at 1:08 p.m. ET

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers prowled the halls of Congress searching for the House Obamacare plan as it was reportedly moved between secret locations Thursday.

Republicans are keeping their Affordable Care Act replacement plan top secret for unclear reasons. Thursday morning it was secured in a congressional office guarded by up to four people.

But when word of that location got around, the bill was quietly moved to another secret location. As lawmakers showed up to read the bill they were turned away frustrated, perplexed, and empty-handed. The bill is being worked on through the Energy and Commerce Committee. Committee Chairman Greg Walden said in a statement that the bill was still a work in progress and accusations they were "doing anything other than regular process" were "false."

"We cannot find the bill," said House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer after showing up to the emptied-out office.

He then delivered a monologue condemning secrecy to a statue of Abraham Lincoln.

Sen. Rand Paul brought a photocopier and said he wanted to make copies of the bill to share with the public. He was also rejected.

Sen. Rand Paul demands a copy of the bill. This staffer says she can't give him one.

I covered the 2009-2010 health debate, and this hunt for a bill in a mysterious room is one of the most bizarre things I've ever witnessed.

"These should be debated in public. In my state of Kentucky it's illegal to do this. You can't have legislation locked behind closed doors in my state," said Paul.

"This is being presented as if it's a national secret, as if it were a plot to invade another country."

A draft of the House plan was leaked last week. Sen. Paul and several conservative Republicans have attacked that plan because it relies on a system of tax credits to help people pay for insurance. They've decried this as a new entitlement program, but House leadership also insists the plan has changed substantially since the leaked draft.

Earlier in the day, Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters that the White House, Senate, and House Republicans are all unified on the Obamacare replacement plan. The location of the plan remains unknown.

Brendan Buck, counselor to Ryan, tweeted that the hunt for a bill was a stunt.

I won’t deny it. I love a good stunt. And seeing which reporters are dumb enough to take them seriously.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.