Democrats hustled Monday to beat back the GOP’s latest Obama-care repeal push, leaning on moderate Republicans and mobilizing advocacy groups off the Hill to sound the alarm.
The flurry of pressure tactics from Democrats comes as a new repeal bill remains very much alive among Senate Republicans, who have until Sept. 30 to ax former President Barack Obama’s signature health care law with a simple majority vote.
Democrats who held the floor into the night and rallied alongside their liberal grass roots earlier this summer vowed to go to the same length this month.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) slammed the bill from GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina as “an atrocity.”
“There’s just nothing defensible about this bill,” Booker said in an interview. “And so my hope is pressure and the outrage from Americans will help to encourage senators to vote no.”
Democrats are focused first on denying Republicans the 50 votes necessary to approve the Cassidy-Graham bill, putting pressure on the same moderate and swing-vote GOP senators who wavered on previous versions of repeal.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Monday publicly underscored the harm that the legislation would pose to states represented by on-the-fence Republicans, including Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, John McCain of Arizona, Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
“This is a red siren moment for the entire country,” Schumer declared.
If Republicans can muster enough support for a vote that could come next week, Democrats will be faced with pivotal decisions on strategy aimed at running out the clock on budget reconciliation protections that shield Obamacare repeal from a filibuster.
Serious talk of tactics if the bill comes to the floor — such as flooding the zone with amendments to push debate past the Sept. 30 deadline — are likely to wait for now, Democratic senators and aides said Monday.
“The first thing is to prevent them from getting to 51,” including a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence, said Sen. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii). “I’m not really interested in contemplating what happens after they win the vote.”
But Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) told Politico on Monday that he expects to have a full quiver of amendments ready aimed at derailing the Cassidy-Graham bill, should it advance.
“We’re going to offer hundreds of amendments on this bill,” Murphy said. “And now it’s even more important because there’s going to be even less time for the public to consume what’s in this.”
Since the bill’s prospects have become more real over the past 48 hours, Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have worked to mobilize prominent groups such as AARP that proved integral in defeating July’s Obamacare repeal push, a senior Democratic aide said.
The Cassidy-Graham proposal would eliminate Obamacare’s individual mandate and convert its tax benefits into block grants for states, ultimately making deep cuts in federal health care spending. The bill also would undermine the law’s consumer protections. Proponents say it would give states needed flexibility to administer health care.
Senate Democrats also seized on the Monday announcement by the Congressional Budget Office that a comprehensive analysis of its effects on insurance coverage and premiums could not be completed by the end of the month.
Democrats said they were planning floor speeches to go late into the night Monday. They also are likely to use next week’s scheduled hearing on the bill’s block grants in the Homeland Security Committee — which does not have primary jurisdiction over health care — as an opportunity to hammer its negative effects.
But the revival of a new repeal bill nearly two months after Democrats celebrated the failure of a previous version sent much of the party’s base into the early stages of panic on Monday.
Liberal groups are planning to join Schumer for a rally outside the Capitol on Tuesday designed to refocus the party’s base on the possibility that repeal could become law after a week when activists had begun transitioning to promoting Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) single-payer health care proposal.
One liberal group not officially participating in Tuesday’s rally, Indivisible, nudged Schumer’s caucus to go further than it already had by holding up committee meetings and employing other procedural obstructions that proved successful earlier this summer.
“They should be fighting the same way they expect our groups and the grass roots to be fighting,” Angel Padilla, Indivisible’s policy director, said in an interview.
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