Senate Democrats are preparing an all-out war to try to save the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and with limited tools at their disposal, their plan is to hit Senate Republicans for their secrecy, spotlight elements that would throw millions of people off their health coverage and fuel enough public disapproval, Politico writes.
However, Democrats cannot really stop the Republicans who are using Senate budget rules that let them pass repeal legislation with only 50 votes and no chance to filibuster, Politico comments.
Moreover,GOP’s urgency to exert pressure with repeal has spurredfresh efforts to try to save the ACA. They plan a sustained attack on Republicans hypocrisy for ramming through a bill with no committee hearings after the GOP blamed Democrats for years for passing ObamaCare with no Republican votes.
When and if the bill reaches the Senate, Democrats will use every tool at their disposal to try to slow it down, from challenging the parliamentarian’s decisions on the arcane rules, to forcing a high-profile and lengthy series of amendment votes to shine light on the legislation.
A lengthy vote series could bring the bright lights of cable news, Twitter, activists and others to the process, and potentially even delay a June vote and force the GOP to endure a July recess during which Democratic allies would mobilize in the states.
“We should mount a pretty epic stand if they get this bill to the floor,” said Senator Chris Murphy, who has been a leading Democratic voice on defending the ACA.
“They’re hoping that the Russia scandal drowns out the fact they’re ready to steal health care from 23 million Americans to give a tax cut to their wealthy friends. We’ve got to make sure when this bill comes to the floor that the entire country is focused on what Republicans are doing”, he added.
Republicans have not finished work on their bill yet, but its House counterpart would roll back the health care law’s Medicaid expansion and lead to 23 million fewer Americans being insured in 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
The way to revitalize Democratic voters, senators said, is to focus outrage on the partisan track that Republicans are taking and how little public information is available about it.
“There is a sense of helplessness about it and a sense of urgency about it. There’s also a sense: We’ve got to make sure the American people understand what’s happening here”, Senator Claire McCaskill said on Tuesday.
If Republicans bring their ObamaCare repeal bill to the floor using a Senate procedure called reconciliation, Democrats cannot filibuster the legislation, and liberal activists are pressing leaders to halt all Senate business in protest of the Republican repeal efforts, but that idea is not under consideration, senators said.
But Democrats do have vote-a-rama, a Senate procedure in which Democrats can force votes on an unlimited number of amendments. In theory, they can force votes for as many hours or days as they have amendments to offer, as long as senators are willing to vote every 15 minutes, Politico reports.
A counter-strategy under discussion would be to offer no amendments at all. The theory, which some House Democrats pushed in that chamber, is to make the case that no amendment would make the repeal bill better. In the interim, the party has at least a few days to try and get the repeal effort back on the front pages of newspapers and the top of newscasts to refocus public attention.
Democrats plan to challenge as much of the bill text as they can in front of the Senate parliamentarian, the nonpartisan staffer who has to decide whether the legislation fits the Senate process the GOP is using to pass its bill. Democrats will argue that parts of the bill, such as anti-abortion language in the tax credits section, don’t comply with the Senate requirement that every provision of the bill pertain to the budget, Politico concludes.