Ron Wyden Tells Press: No More Quotes on Russia Unless We Talk About GOP Health Care Plan

After closed-door drafting of the Republican health care bill, Wyden is calling out Republicans' shady tactics.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) loves to talk about President Donald Trump and Russia. But he's issued himself a temporary gag order.

Wyden will answer questions about Russian ties to the Trump campaign by first talking about health care, until the public understands the gravity of the Republican Senate plan to repeal and replace Obamacare, he says.

"When reporters ask me a question about Russia, I now say, 'I'm happy to talk about it, but you're going to have to listen to me talk about the health care challenge ahead first,'" Wyden said at a press conference in the Capitol yesterday, according to a report by Vox.

Under the U.S. House's version of a health care bill, the American Health Care Act, a projected 23 million Americans are at risk of losing health insurance. Wyden thinks that alarm about the ramifications of the AHCA should be equal to concern about Russia.

"Russia, because those concerns cut straight to the heart of the administration's legitimacy, and health care, because America must never lurch backwards to the days when healthcare is reserved for the healthy and the wealthy," Wyden spokesman Hank Stern told WW in an email today.

Wyden, a member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, has been in the spotlight for his probing line of question about the Trump administration's ties to Russia and firing of ex-FBI Director James Comey. But he wants journalists to re-calibrate their focus.

Related: Ron Wyden says when it comes to Trump, "I'm interested in potential money laundering."

"While 13 Republican senators—all men—were scheming this week behind closed doors, it was not the leading story in any major news outlet, despite the serious impact on every American," Stern added of the senator's opinion of current media coverage. "There is an organized Republican effort to inflict a health care scheme with no opportunity for either adequate press coverage or hearings, and certainly no opportunity for input from constituents, and there has been very little coverage of that effort."

Also active in the fight against Trumpcare is U.S. Sen Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).

Merkley has been a vocal opponent of the Senate bill, which is being drafted by Republicans behind closed doors without committee hearings. Outrage over the lack of legislative debate and transparency has prompted a proposal for a "No Hearing, No Vote Act" by Senate Democrats—Wyden and Merkley included.

It would prohibit bills from going before the full Senate without going through at least one committee hearing, though it is unlikely to go far in the Republican-controlled Senate.