- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2017

In 2013, it was Republicans who sent the government into a shutdown over Obamacare. Democrats aren’t there yet, but they are inching up their resistance efforts, ratcheting up their attacks and vowing to slow Senate business to a crawl, hoping to make the GOP’s Obamacare repeal push as painful as possible.

In the Senate, Democrats vowed Monday to use parliamentary tools to hinder the rest of Republicans’ agenda, sopping up precious floor time, until GOP leaders schedule hearings on their emerging health bill.

Democrats are unlikely to force any changes in Republicans’ strategy, but party leaders figure they’ll force the GOP to defend its “no hearings” tactic to the public as a 13-member working group toils behind closed doors to write a bill.

“The Republicans are writing their health care bill under the cover of darkness because they’re ashamed of it, plain and simple,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer said. “They’re ashamed that their bill will likely cause millions to lose their health care insurance; they’re ashamed that it will increase costs for older and sicker Americans. All to pass along a big, fat tax break for the wealthiest among us, the folks who need it the least.”

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell shot down Mr. Schumer’s request for a hearing on the Senate plan, saying senators will have “ample opportunity to read and amend” it during an open amendment process since Republicans are using fast-track budget rules to pass their plan on a majority vote.

Yet he refused to say whether the bill would be available for more than 10 hours before voting begins.

“I rest my case,” Mr. Schumer said.

Democrats insist they’re willing to work with Republicans on health care, but only if the GOP ditches its repeal pursuit.

“If your house needs repairs, you don’t set your house on fire. You work to fix the issues,” Sen. Joe Donnelly, Indiana Democrat, said in the first of a series of pro-Obamacare floor speeches that stretched into the night.

Mr. McConnell, however, says Democrats have offered no plans other than more government control and more taxpayer money to bail out the failing Obamacare exchanges.

“The Obamacare status quo is simply unsustainable,” Mr. McConnell said. “The American people deserve relief, and we’ll keep working to provide it.”

For now, the Senate’s schedule this week is focused on confirming President Trump’s nominees — something Democrats had been obstructing anyway.

SenateGOP leaders have been eyeing a health care vote by the July 4 break, though some senators have said the effort could stretch deeper into the summer.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee isn’t waiting for floor action. It released ads targeting three GOP senators facing re-election in 2018: Jeff Flake of Arizona, Dean Heller of Nevada and Ted Cruz of Texas. Mr. Cruz’s anti-Obamacare rebellion sparked a 16-day federal shutdown in 2013, though he is taking a more cooperative stance with GOP leadership this time around now that Republicans control all levers of political power in D.C.

The DSCC also targeted ads at Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican who might challenge Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat. The ads feature a father and mother selling off their pickup truck and engagement ring to afford care for their ailing daughter.

Poorer and older Americans could see their costs rise under the GOP plan, while younger, healthier Americans are expected to fare better than under Obamacare, according to a Congressional Budget Office report that estimated 23 million fewer people would hold insurance by 2026 under the House bill.

The Republican Study Committee, a large bloc of House conservatives, said it is getting antsy about Senate efforts to soften the bill.

In a draft letter to Mr. McConnell, the RSC said failure to preserve four aspects of the House plan “may jeopardize” final passage when it returns to their chamber: preventing new states from expanding Medicaid, while freezing generous funding for those that already have it in 2020; allowing states to waive Obamacare’s regulations on insurers; repealing Obamacare’s taxes as swiftly as possible; and defunding Planned Parenthood and making sure new, refundable tax credits cannot be used for abortion.

The RSC is gathering signatures for the letter before it sends it off later in the week.

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