- The Washington Times - Monday, June 19, 2017

Democrats said Monday they plan to begin jamming up business in the Senate to protest the GOP majority’s secret negotiations over health care.

They plan to hold the Senate floor late into the evening to deliver speeches in opposition to the Republican push to repeal and replace Obamacare.

The House GOP acted last month, yet Senate Republicans are struggling to rally 50 votes from their 52-seat majority for a fast-track budget bill that can avoid a Democratic filibuster. They are negotiating behind closed doors and haven’t scheduled any hearings on the emerging bill, which would drastically reshape health care.

Unable to stop them, Senate Democrats plan to use parliamentary tools to make the process as painful as possible.

They will begin to object to all “unanimous consent” requests in the Senate that speed along debate — except for honorary resolutions, such as one honoring the victims of last week’s shooting at a congressional Republican baseball practice.

Yet on Monday they will request unanimous consent to try and force the House version of the GOP bill into a Senate committee and delay the so-called “vote-a-rama” on amendments that accompany the budget process, according to a senior Democratic aide

Though unlikely to get very far, Democrats say Republicans will be forced to defend their “no hearings” strategy.

Democrats also plan to contrast the current process with the multiple hearings, roundtables and markups that led to passage of the 2010 Affordable Care Act.

“Republicans are drafting this bill in secret because they’re ashamed of it, plain and simple,” Senate Minority Leader Charles D. Schumer. “These are merely the first steps we’re prepared to take in order to shine a light on this shameful Trumpcare 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,” he said, “then they shouldn’t expect business as usual in the Senate.”

Democrats say they’re willing to work with Republicans on health care, but only if the GOP drops its pursuit of repeal. Last week, Mr. Schumer invited Republicans to an open debate on health care, yet GOP leaders said the offer amounted to confirmation of Obamacare’s struggles.

A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell last week said Democrats haven’t put any serious proposals on the table, anyway, as Obamacare’s exchanges are buffeted by rising premiums and dwindling choices, particularly in Midwest states.

Democrats aren’t letting up, however. In a new letter on Monday, they pointed to 31 room that senators could use in case Republicans decide to hold a hearing on their plan.

“If you schedule a hearing, we guarantee all Democratic members of the Senate HELP, Finance or Budget Committee will be in attendance at any time or place that you choose,” Democratic leadership wrote to committee chairmen guiding the Republican bill.

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