Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is staking out this week as the time to obstruct Republicans’ still-secret health care legislation.
Speaking to reporters, a Democratic aide revealed that beginning Monday night, Democrats would withhold consent on nearly every GOP request in the Senate. That tactic could slow down Senate business, including committee work.
“If Republicans won’t relent and debate their healthcare bill in the open for the American people to see, then they shouldn’t expect business as usual in the Senate,” Sen. Schumer said.
One way Democrats could withhold consent would be to invoke Senate rules and shut down any committee proceedings after the Senate has been in session for more than two hours.
Democrats are also signaling intentions to force the GOP into a number of embarrassing positions in public. By invoking Senate procedures and parliamentary inquiries, the minority could highlight the lack of regular order and committee work behind the GOP’s legislative push.
“These are merely the first steps we’re prepared to take in order to shine a light on this shameful TrumpCare bill,” Sen. Schumer added.
Behind closed doors in the Capitol, Senate Republicans are still making modifications to the House-passed American Health Care Act (AHCA). The legislation repeals key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including regulations on health insurance companies, expanded Medicaid coverage, and the universal mandate putting tax penalties on the uninsured. The bill is projected to result in more than 20 million Americans being denied health insurance.
Despite not having a finalized product, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has already made preparations to fast track the bill without a committee markup or much debate. He hopes to have a vote as early as next week to pass the measure before the July 4 recess.
Also hampering McConnell’s truncated schedule is the need for a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score on the legislation — a process that could take weeks.
While Democrats don’t have the numbers within their party to completely block a GOP healthcare measure from passing, they could delay it enough to exert pressure on a handful of moderate Republicans. McConnell can only afford two defections before the bill would sink.
Thus far, however, Democrats have been reluctant to block the AHCA. The bill passed the House in May with Democrats offering little in the way of obstruction beyond their “Nay” votes. Politico described the Democrats’ plan as “strategic retreat.”
Schumer’s pledge to gum up the process comes one week after Democrats delivered the GOP a signature win, and a blow against the prior Obama administration, with new sanctions against Iran.
The sanctions measure passed 98-2 with only Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) voting against it. Democrats unanimously supported the bill after they were able to add an amendment to it imposing new sanctions against Russia, too.
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