Dems limited in their ability to slow ObamaCare vote – The Hill

The options for Democrats are limited as they try to prevent Senate Republicans from passing legislation repealing and replacing ObamaCare.

Republicans are rushing toward a vote next week in hopes of passing legislation before the July 4th recess. Republicans will see a “discussion draft” of the bill Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellDems are limited in their ability to slow ObamaCare vote Health plans slam Medicaid cuts in emerging Senate bill Trio of conservative Republicans rip Senate healthcare process MORE (R-Ky.) said Tuesday.

Democrats are decrying that timeline, protesting that the bill has been crafted in secret without adequate debate or public consideration.

But with GOP leaders aiming to pass the legislation under budget reconciliation rules, the Democrats are limited in what procedural roadblocks they can throw in front of the legislation. 

Once a bill gets to the Senate floor, Democrats acknowledge, there’s little they can do to stop it if Republicans can muster a majority. 

Senate Republican leaders only need 51 votes to pass the bill, and the GOP has a 52-seat majority. Vice President Pence could break a tie. 

“I think our most effective strategy is to highlight the process and the extremely peculiar nature of it, and then let public pressure on the few Republican senators who are going to make the difference begin to work,” Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDems are limited in their ability to slow ObamaCare vote Dems to grind Senate to a halt over ObamaCare repeal fight Special counsel to meet with Senate Judiciary Committee members: report MORE (D-R.I.) told The Hill.

Even though they won’t be able to block the bill with a filibuster, Democrats hope to delay the healthcare vote for as long as possible by offering a slew of amendments or motions during a process called “vote-a-rama.”

“I think we should put this bill on the floor for as long as we can,” Sen. Chris MurphyChris MurphyDems are limited in their ability to slow ObamaCare vote Democrats search for GOP healthcare bill Dem senator: GOP using Russia, Scalise shooting as ‘cover’ for healthcare MORE (D-Conn.) said. 

“The fact of the matter is the American people aren’t going to be able to see this bill until days before it’s voted on at best. The longer this bill is on the floor, the better chance people get to see what an epic disaster it’s going to be.”

While GOP leaders are pressing ahead, success is far from guaranteed.

Some Republican senators are voicing frustrations with the closed-door process and with how the bill is shaping up on areas like the Medicaid expansion and ObamaCare regulations.

But the griping from Republicans about the process has been mild compared to the outcry from Democrats, who say they’ve been shut completely out of the legislative process.  

Senate Minority Leader Charles 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’s (D-N.Y.) last week requested that McConnell hold an all-senators meeting on healthcare, but the idea was rejected.

Seeking to draw attention to the Senate’s closed-door process, Sens. Cory Booker (N.J.), Brian Schatz (Hawaii) and Murphy live-streamed a trip to the Congressional Budget Office Tuesday, where they asked to see a copy of the bill. The trio met with the nonpartisan agency’s director and deputy director, but their quest was fruitless.

Republicans have sent over portions of the bill to the CBO for scoring, but Murphy said he wasn’t given any information from the CBO director.

“We wouldn’t be doing this if we haven’t been shut down in every way possible by Republicans,” Murphy said as he walked outside the CBO building. “This is the only way we’re going to get our hands on this piece of legislation.”

If McConnell gets a healthcare bill to the floor, it will be limited to 20 hours of debate and subject to a “vote-a-rama” — a rapid succession of votes on amendments that can last for hours. Senators often force their colleagues to take tough votes on amendments during these lengthy sessions, which can be turned into political attack ads later.

Democrats are already considering what kind of amendments they’ll offer and how many, but those decisions are hard to make when the bill text isn’t yet available.

“We’re working through the options — no decision yet,” Senate Minority Whip Dick DurbinDick DurbinDems are limited in their ability to slow ObamaCare vote Going national with automatic voter registration Senate GOP shifts focus to Lynch MORE (Ill.) told reporters Tuesday when asked about amendments. 

Liberal groups are pushing for Democrats to flood the process with thousands of amendments, but the Senate parliamentarian could rule that those efforts are “dilatory,” meaning their only purpose is to cause a delay. Republicans could then proceed to a final vote.  

“There’s really not much process we have that gives us a fair chance,” Sen. Ben CardinBen CardinDems are limited in their ability to slow ObamaCare vote House Republicans block Russia sanctions bill Overnight Finance: Ryan seeks manufacturing muscle for tax reform | Warren targets Wells Fargo board | Senators raise concerns over Russian takeover of Citgo | Pelosi hits GOP for budget delays MORE (D-Md.) told The Hill.  

“In fact, there is no process that we have that gives us a fair chance. So the process issues are mainly to make a point to the American people about how unfair this process was and is leading to the wrong results.”

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