The Democrats currently hold a slight minority in both houses of Congress, though they are just outnumbered enough to make their efforts to combat any legislative actions they don’t agree with, or uphold the demands of their support base. That does not mean that they have thrown in the towel. It was reported Monday night that Senate Democrats would be holding the Senate floor all night, stalling business in response to what they and many others see as a rushed and secretive process by Senate Republicans to pass their version of an Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) repeal.
The Washington Post published a journalistically scathing article Monday in response to the Senate Republican’s work on the intended replacement for the Affordable Care Act. In it, they quote Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell; there are four quotes from 2009/2010 when the ACA was being worked on in Congress juxtaposed with four quotes from this year as the Senators draft Obamacare’s replacement.
In these quotes, McConnell calls the Democrats at the time partisan and accuse them of working behind the scenes and rushing through their legislation. Compare that with his own quotes admitting that only Republicans are involved in the current drafting of the replacement bill, and shrugging off calls for bipartisanship and accusations that he and his GOP Senators are being secretive, partisan and rushing their own bill through.
Looking at a timeline for the ACA, it is difficult to call what Democrats did in 2008/2009/2010 “rushing it through” when compared with the actions of the current Republican-held Congress. President Obama announced his idea for healthcare reform in the fall of 2008 when he was still just a presidential candidate. In March 2009, he held a “health summit” with healthcare providers, insurers and experts, including drug companies and advocates for consumers. In July of 2009, Democrats in the House, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, revealed a 1,000 page proposal for the health-care system overhaul. In August 2009, during a congressional recess, congressional members were faced with protests by the newly formed Tea Party. In November the House passed its version in a tight vote, 220-215, gaining the support of one Republican. On Christmas Eve, the Senate passed its version after Democrats end a Republican filibuster.
In January, Republicans had already started attempts to repeal the ACA, gaining a surprise additional seat upon the death of Ted Kennedy which lost Democrats their 60 seat majority in the Senate. In March of 2010, the Senate approves the House’s version in a 291-212 vote with all Republicans rejecting it. President Obama signed the bill into law ion March 23, 2010.
While it appears true that House Democrats worked on their initial version of the bill without much, if any, Republican input, the Senate process and the Senate Democrats worked to include Republicans. According to a detailed article in The Atlantic, “When Republicans like Hatch and Grassley began to write op-eds and trash the individual mandate, which they had earlier championed, as unconstitutional and abominable, it convinced conservative Democrats in the senate that every honest effort to engage Republicans in the reform effort had been tried and cynically rebuffed.” The article also traces the timeline, briefly covered above, and states that “if Obama had, as conventional wisdom holds, jammed health reform through at the earliest opportunity, there would have been votes in the Senate Finance Committee in June or July of 2009, as there were in the House. Instead, the votes came significantly later.”
This is what McConnell called partisan and rushed. It has only been weeks since the House, led by Republicans, voted through a surprise replacement for the ACA. Republicans were quoted saying that their replacement would take time and would be drafted with careful consid3ration.
The House voted on their version of the appeal, passing it 217 to 213, before a Congressional Budget Office score could be released. Now the Senate is quietly debating and working on its version with no Democratic input anywhere near it. Tom Cotton was in NY Magazine: “Get it right, don’t get it fast. GOP shouldn’t act like Dems did in O’care. No excuse to release bill Mon night, start voting Wed.” It was just reported that Senate Republicans plan to present their bill next Tuesday, the 27th with a vote aimed at Thursday the 29th.
According to the New York Times, “without the votes to stop the majority party from passing a bill, Democrats can only draw attention to the way Republicans are creating their bill—behind closed doors without a single hearing or public bill-drafting session.”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer spoke from the Senate Ffloor Monday night, stating outright why the Democrats were doing what they were doing: “If Republicans are not going to allow debate on their bill on the floor or in committee, Democrats will make opportunities to debate.” Schumer was seen on the live coverage of the all-nighter pushing Mitch McConnell to overtly object to public hearings as well as pushing him to agree to 10 hours of open debate about the bill before voting, with McConnell side-stepping the questioning by repeating “We will have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.”
CNN reports that the accelerated pace in the Senate process may be detrimental to Republicans politically: “The abbreviated schedule is a dramatic bet that Republicans can secure the 51 votes they need to pass a bill that could hurt them politically with no guarantee it will ever become law. A failure would also be another setback for President Donald Trump, who has had few legislative wins to show in his first five months in office.”
Trump has been reported as saying that the House’s repeal bill, which he celebrated with House members after its passage in the Rose Garden at the White House, is “mean” and lacs generosity.
Senate Republican leaders have also excluded some junior members of their own party in their opaque process in what some of them call a necessary process to draft an appealing bill but which ultimately seems like a disinclination to include resistant Senators to have any input.
Leader McConnell is reportedly looking at to have the bill passed before July 4th.