It’s not quite a “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” style filibuster, but Senate Democrats led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) intend to grind business in the U.S. Senate to a halt beginning this afternoon. to slow down or stop a vote on the Republican’s secret health care legislation.
They will use procedural moves and other techniques to at least slow down the vote on the Republican’s secret health care legislation – and hopefully, force it to go through a more normal process of committee hearings, amendments, and public comment.
“Republicans are drafting this bill in secret because they’re ashamed of it, plain and simple,” said Schumer. “These are merely the first steps we’re prepared to take in order to shine a light on this shameful TurmpCare bill and reveal to the public the GOP’s true intentions: to give the uber-wealthy a tax break while making middle-class Americans pay more for less health care coverage.”
“If Republicans won’t relent and debate their health care bill in the open for the American people to see,” added Schumer, “then they shouldn’t expect business as usual in the Senate.”
Democrats may not have the votes to stop the plot by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to sneak a vote on their health care bill but they can make life difficult for the Republicans.
Beginning today, they will object to all unanimous consent requests to consider nominees and legislation in the Senate – which are usually done automatically as a courtesy – and they will make moves to force the health care bill to a committee for a full hearing.
Beginning tomorrow, Democrats are also expected to block committee hearings from going on for more than two hours. That is the right of any Senator but it frequently happens. It has been used before when Republicans and Democrats are at loggerheads to make a point.
Beginning this evening, Democratic Senators are expected to deliver speeches on the floor calling out Republicans for writing their bill behind closed doors and refusing to follow normal procedures and have a free and open debate on the legislation.
This is a move the Democrat Senators have debated and been hesitant to take. It could impact the few bills that have bipartisan support including legislation that ensures Trump can’t relax sanctions on Russia without Congressional approval.
Since most routine business in the Senate is handled by unanimous consent, this will mean the Democrats can spend hours arguing even the most minor legislation or nomination.
Democrats are still expected to allow some minor bills to pass through, including resolutions such as honoring the victims of the shooting in Virginia last week.
Another reason that the Democrats are going to a form of parliamentary war is concern that the public’s attention is focused on the Russian interference investigations which may give Republicans a window to sneak the health care bill through.
Another motivation for the Democrats is that a number of progressive groups have been pushing them hard not to let McConnell waltz through with a last-minute vote on a bill that will affect at least one-sixth of all Americans – mostly in negative ways.
— HeyEu…#resist❄️ (@Raynju) June 19, 2017
One very active group is Indivisible, a grass root organization that has sprouted all over the country in response to Trump’s outrageous statements, nominations, executive orders and proposed budget. Indivisible works outside the traditional Democratic organization and has been responsible for turning out hundreds of people at town hall meetings held by Congresspeople in their home districts to confront their support for Trump’s efforts on health care, the environment, tax reform and more.
“We need to slow them way down and draw attention to their terrible bill and their terrible process,” says the Indivisible plan to stop TrumpCare legislation. “That way, everyone will know how many people will lose coverage, how many protections will be taken away, and how much premiums are expected to increase.”
Here's an idea: ask Dem Senators to boycott all non-essential (non-Russia) hearings until there's a public hearing on Trumpcare. https://t.co/peq28xKjwf
— Topher Spiro (@TopherSpiro) June 8, 2017
Topher Spiro is with the Center for American Progress, which has called on Democratic Senators to refuse to cooperate on all hearings expect the Russian investigation until there is a proper public hearing on TrumpCare.
It is unclear that ultimately the Democrats can stop the TrumpCare from passing the Senate if McConnell can once again hold together at least 50 of the 52 Republican Senators for a vote (with VP Mike Pence then casting the 51st vote).
However, what the Democrats can do is make enough noise to get the American public to pay attention to the repeal of ObamaCare, which most like, and passage of TrumpCare, which will make it more difficult for many working people to afford any health care at all, and make it more expensive for those who can ante up.
In the face of Republican efforts to jam a bill, even Trump calls “mean” down the throats of the American people, this will also begin a rallying cry that could be heard all the way through the 2018 mid-term elections when voters will have a chance to throw out the regressive Conservatives and Tea Party wackos, and reclaim Congress for the good of the majority of hard working citizens.