Democrats took to the Senate floor Monday to decry Republicans’ efforts to ram a healthcare bill through the Senate but have little tools to derail the process.
Democrats harshly criticized Republicans for drafting its version of the American Health Care Act, which partially repeals Obamacare, behind closed doors and without Senate hearings.
“Most Republicans don’t have a clue what is in that legislation. I should think every Republican should be embarrassed,” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., on the Senate floor Monday.
“This is an insult to the American people,” added Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev.
The Monday night talk-a-thon is an opening salvo from Democrats to bring attention to the process the GOP is doing to draft a healthcare reform bill.
Senate Democrats will start objecting to all unanimous consent requests in the Senate, a procedure used to curtail debate on noncontroversial bills, a senior Senate Democratic aide said.
Democrats are also issuing unanimous consent requests to attempt to force the AHCA to a committee, but Republican leadership has squashed those requests so far.
However, other than gumming up the works there isn’t much that Democrats can do to prevent the bill from reaching the floor or getting out of the Senate.
Republicans are using a procedural pathway called reconciliation that lets a bill get passed by 51 votes instead of the 60 required to break a filibuster. A reconciliation bill has to reduce the deficit and can only focus on budgetary and spending levels.
A bill considered under reconciliation also has limited debate time.
Therefore, if the Senate has the votes for its version of the AHCA then it can pass it with only 51 votes. In fact, Senate Republicans can afford two defections from their 52-48 majority as Vice President Pence can break a tie.
The question right now is if Senate GOP leadership does have the votes. As of now, leadership is still negotiating over major sticking points that include Medicaid spending.
But Democrats are aiming to slow things down in the Senate to call attention to the process on creating the healthcare bill. Senate leadership has not held hearings on its version of the AHCA and is drafting it behind closed doors and bypassing committees.
“We are going to bring this up in every possible way,” Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told reporters Monday. “We will bring it up on the floor, in the Senate Finance Committee.”
He added that Democrats are trying to draw attention at a pivotal time in the healthcare debate.
“The big challenge is there is so much going on right now,” he said. “Normally you have one or two significant news events in a week, now there are several every single day.”
“This is go time as it relates to healthcare,” he added. “All healthcare, all the time.”
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