Senate Democrats are stepping up their attacks on the GOP’s push to repeal and replace ObamaCare as the legislative battle enters a critical two-week stretch.
Democrats can’t block a healthcare bill on their own, but are threatening to shut down the Senate in retaliation for Republicans negotiating their legislation in a string of closed-door GOP-only meetings.
The move, they hope, will put Republicans on the defense as they look to force a vote as soon as next week, when lawmakers will leave for the July 4th recess.
“This radical departure from normal procedure on a bill of such consequence leaves the Senate minority little choice but to depart from normal procedure as well,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles SchumerDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Live coverage: Senate Dems hold talkathon to protest GOP health plan GOP exploiting Virginia shooting in Georgia election MORE said from the Senate floor. “If the Republicans won’t debate their healthcare in the open for the American people to see, they shouldn’t expect business as usual.”
A senior Senate Democratic aide said senators will begin objecting to routine unanimous consent requests, with a narrow exception for non-controversial “honorary resolutions.”
If Democrats stick to their tactics it will allow them to cut-short committee hearings and block meetings after the Senate has been in session for two hours.
They’ll also use the Senate’s procedural rulebook to try to derail the bill — moves that are unlikely to succeed given the Republican majority — and draw comparisons between the GOP process and the months of public debate over the Affordable Care Act.
An aide declined to say when Democrats would announce any next potential steps. But Schumer signaled that Democrats could further escalate their fight, saying the moves announced on Monday are “merely the first steps we’re prepared to take.”
“Republicans are drafting this bill in secret because they’re ashamed of it, plain and simple,” he said.
Schumer’s comments are being echoed across the Democratic caucus.
Several Democrats, including Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Trump administration pushing to weaken Russia sanctions bill: report Russia sanctions deal clears key Senate hurdle MORE (Ohio) and Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Dems push to require Senate hearing for ObamaCare repeal vote Dem senators seize on Senate press crackdown MORE (Ore.), demanded on Monday that Republican “show us the bill.” Sen. Michael BennetMichael BennetDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Trump welcomes Gorsuch on first Supreme Court visit Why higher education is in need of regulatory relief MORE (D-Colo.) argued Republicans are “so ashamed” of the health care bill, “they won’t even share it with GOP colleagues.”
Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill What do Democrats stand for? Mechanic: Baseball field shooter ranted about Trump before attack MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Overnight Finance: Warren to Fed: Kick out Wells Fargo board | Senators raise questions about Russian takeover of Citgo | Pelosi bashes GOP on budget Overnight Regulation: Trump focus turns to scrapping regs | FTC moves to block fantasy sports merger | Pelosi wants net neutrality hearing in San Francisco MORE (D-Mass.) both pledged during a joint Facebook Q&A that they would use any procedural tool available to try to quash the GOP bill.
Sanders said Republicans are negotiating behind closed doors because their bill “stinks to high hell.”
Republicans fired back, arguing Democrats have done nothing to help them improve the healthcare system.
“Senate Ds threatening obstruction this week. But what’s new? They refuse to lift a finger to help with runaway premiums under Obamacare,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Overnight Finance: Warren to Fed: Kick out Wells Fargo board | Senators raise questions about Russian takeover of Citgo | Pelosi bashes GOP on budget Senators ask administration to probe possible Russian takeover of Citgo MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said on Twitter on Monday.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellRyan seeks manufacturing muscle for tax push Dems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Live coverage: Senate Dems hold talkathon to protest GOP health plan MORE (R-Ky.) added from the Senate floor that the status quo is “simply unsustainable.”
“Senate Republicans will continue working because it’s clear that we cannot allow Americans’ healthcare to continue on its current downward trajectory under Obamacare, taking so many families with it,” he said.
Republicans have a narrow path to passing a healthcare bill. They have 52 seats, meaning they can only lose two GOP senators and still let Vice President Pence to break a tie.
McConnell hasn’t publicly committed to the July 4th deadline for voting on a bill, but GOP senators want to wrap up their work on healthcare—which is months behind schedule—so they can move onto other priorities.
No Democrat is expected to support repeal, but Schumer sent McConnell a letter late last week requesting an all-Senate meeting. Democrats sent a follow-up letter on Monday, listing dozens of locations that Republicans could hold a hearing if they wanted to.
Democrats face intense pressure from liberal groups to shut down the Senate floor and block committees from meeting to slow down the GOP. Indivisible, a progressive advocacy group, urged its members to ask Democratic senators to “resist through procedure.”
“[Senate Democrats] also need to draw more attention by accepting and introducing thousands of amendments during vote-a-rama. Demand it,” Indivisible said on Twitter.
The vote-a-rama is an hours-long session in which any member can demand a vote on an amendment. Under Senate rules, Republicans have to hold the marathon session before they can take a final vote on an ObamaCare repeal bill.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced on Monday that it had launched a new ad against Sens. Dean HellerDean HellerDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill These GOP senators need to stand up to their party on healthcare Senate GOP considers deeper Medicaid cuts than House bill MORE (Nev.) and Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill These GOP senators need to stand up to their party on healthcare GOP senator says political rhetoric ‘out of control’ MORE (Ariz.) — the two most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in an otherwise favorable year for the party — as well as Sen. Ted CruzTed CruzDems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill Overnight Finance: Warren to Fed: Kick out Wells Fargo board | Senators raise questions about Russian takeover of Citgo | Pelosi bashes GOP on budget Senators ask administration to probe possible Russian takeover of Citgo MORE (R-Texas) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.
“Republicans can try and ram through their health care bill in secret, but voters will know exactly who to blame when their costs spike and their coverage is cut,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Spokesman David Bergstein.
Meanwhile, the Community Catalyst Action Fund said on Monday that is targeting senators in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Nevada and West Virginia with a mix of TV and radio ads, urging them to oppose the GOP legislation.
Republicans are returning fire, with the National Republican Senatorial Campaign (NRSC) targeting Democrats up for reelection in red-states carried by Trump in the 2016 election.
Michael Reed, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, accused Democrats of having “crocodile tears.”
“Democrat efforts to feign outrage over healthcare negotiations should be seen for what it is – a pure partisan game aimed at placating the far-left,” he said on Monday in a note to reporters. “Good luck now trying to tell voters that it is Republicans who are refusing to negotiate.”