When the Senate convened for the first time this week at 4 p.m. Monday, the first agenda item for Democrats was slowing down the Republican health care bill.
Beginning Monday night, Democrats will begin interrupting Senate business in an effort to resist the Obamacare replacement law that’s being negotiated by Republicans behind closed doors, according to Politico and later confirmed independently by ThinkProgress.
Democrats plan to start blocking routine Senate business beginning tonight to protest Obamacare repeal, per Dem sources
— Jennifer Haberkorn (@jenhab) June 19, 2017
Senate Republicans are counting on a parliamentary procedure known as reconciliation (reconciling new fiscal policy with existing law) to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with a simple majority. But even without the risk of a filibuster, Republicans can only afford to lose two of their party members’ votes if no Democrats cross the floor to help pass the American Health Care Act (AHCA, colloquially known as Trumpcare).
Without the votes to block legislation, Democrats are turning to Senate procedural rules to disrupt business and underline the fact that Republicans are passing a health bill without their input.
Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) are starting the work week by leading a Senate floor talk-a-thon Monday evening, during which Democratic Senators plan to thrash the Republican health care bill until at least midnight.
“Senate Republicans have every reason to be ashamed of their version of Trumpcare given the devastating impact it would have on families’ health and their bank accounts — but that doesn’t mean they should be able to hide it from the very patients and families who it would impact,” said Murray’s office in a press statement to ThinkProgress. “Democrats are not going to let Republicans pull the wool over the public’s eyes without a fight.”
Efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare are causing uncertainty in state insurance markets, driving private insurers to hike up their premiums. In Sen. Murray’s home state, health-insurance rates in the 2018 individual market place would increase an average of 23.5 percent based on filings under review posted Monday.
Premera Blue Cross, the only insurer that offered coverage under the ACA exchanges in six Washington counties, said it was pulling out from two rural counties — thus affecting an estimated 3,350 people. A Premera spokeswoman said Capitol Hill health care negotiations did not prompt the insurer’s decision. However, the Washington State Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler maintains Premera’s decision is indicative of the GOP effort to undercut Obamacare.(Prepare for more he-said-she-said on Obamacare deserts this week as insurance companies need to decide by Wednesday whether they want to participate in 39 states’ exchanges.)
Tonight’s series of health care speeches marathon is part of a number of Senate procedural tactics Democrats allegedly plan to deploy, like objecting to all “unanimous consent” requests, said Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The Senate requires consent to do practically anything on the floor, including ending debate and expediting proceedings.
Tonight’s protest is a big win for advocates from MoveOn and Indivisible, who have been encouraging their followers to contact Senate Democrats for weeks. Holding the floor on Monday evening will likely not change the health care vote or force the bill to committee, but it will make for Democrat highlights Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile as Democrats strategize how to best stop the House-passed health bill from moving forward, Senate Republicans are continuing closed-door negotiations. In the latest round of leaks to the media regarding the secret Senate bill, a legislative aide told the Hill that a leading option for Medicaid spending will involve deeper cuts than the bill passed by the House — which would already boot 14 million people off the program.