Senate Dems end ObamaCare repeal protest after 5 hours

Democrats ceded back the Senate floor early Tuesday morning, ending a more than 5-hour protest of GOP efforts to repeal ObamaCare.

Democrats painted the late-night talkathon as the first test against a Republican-led government as the majority party works to nix the healthcare law without a replacement plan.

"This is our first big fight against the Republican majority and the Trump majority," Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles SchumerFCC advances proposal to unmask blocked caller ID in threat cases Trump: Pelosi's leadership good for the GOP Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill MORE (N.Y.) told supporters on a late Monday conference call with MoveOn and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC). "We're having big success."

Senate Democrats took over the Senate floor around 6:45 p.m. with Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Senate Dem offers patent reform bill MORE (D-Ill.) accusing Republicans of hating ObamaCare "almost as much as the devil hates holy water" as he kicked off the protest on the floor.

By the end of the night 24 Democratic senators — including Chris MurphyChris MurphyDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Senate panel demands Trump's legal rationale for shooting Syrian jet Dems limited in their ability to slow ObamaCare vote MORE (Conn.) and Patty MurrayPatty MurrayDems push for more action on power grid cybersecurity Live coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Senators grill Perry on Yucca nuclear storage plans MORE (Wash.) — had spoken from the Senate floor, approximately half the Democratic conference. 

"Why we're here tonight is pretty simple," Murphy — who led a 15-hour filibuster last year — said just before midnight. "The repeal of the Affordable Care Act with no replacement, with no plan for what comes next, will hurt million of real people in very real ways."

Democrats boiled down their message to Republicans using the so-called Pottery Barn rule: You break it, you buy it.

Senators repeatedly characterized the current GOP effort as "repeal and run."

"Get real, [Republicans] don't have a clue what to do next," Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenLive coverage: Senate GOP unveils its ObamaCare repeal bill Overnight Regulation: Labor groups fear rollback of Obama worker protection rule | Trump regs czar advances in Senate | New FCC enforcement chief Budowsky: Dems madder than hell MORE (D-Mass.) said from the Senate floor. "Repeal and run. That's the Republican plan."

The Senate is expected to pass a shell budget resolution along a party-line vote this week that includes guidelines for repealing ObamaCare.

ADVERTISEMENT
Democrats face an uphill battle to block the rules or the separate standalone repeal bill. Both need only 50 votes to clear the upper chamber and Republicans have a 52-seat majority.

But Democrats and outside groups appeared to take heart Monday over new signs of division among congressional Republicans.

Members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus said after a meeting at Tortilla Coast that they want more repeal details on repeal and replacement before voting on the guidelines for rolling back the law.

And another group of Senate Republicans is separately trying to kick the deadline for lawmakers to turn over their repeal proposals into early March, pushing the original Jan. 27 deadline by more than a month.

In addition to giving lawmakers more time to work on a repeal, they argue it would help lock down more details on a replacement and allow them to work with Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.), who has been nominated to lead Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services.

The GOP senators could force a vote on their proposal on Wednesday, when the Senate is expected to hold a marathon session known as “vote-a-rama.”

Schumer told supporters on Monday night that Republicans are already getting “cold feet,” stressing that Democrats will have momentum coming off of the talkathon.

"We are winning on both sides,” he said. “They're flummoxed. We're united.”

Democrats pledged to keep up their fight against an ObamaCare repeal in the coming days, with Warren encouraging supporters to call Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellThe Hill's 12:30 Report Spicer: When Trump wants to get something done, 'it's going to get done' GOP senator: I would have preferred ‘better’ process on ObamaCare repeal MORE’s (R-Ky.) office.

"We have to make it clear every senator and every representative that votes to destroy healthcare in America will be responsible for disaster and consequences that come next," Warren said on the PCCC call.

Democrats warn that the floor protest and calls with outside groups are the first shot in what is shaping up to be a yearslong fight over repealing and eventually replacing the Affordable Care Act.

“We will fight this repeal with every fiber in our being,” Schumer added from the floor. “We will not go gently into that good night.”

Schumer, Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill's 12:30 Report Poll: One-third blame media for political violence Sanders's wife hires lawyer amid bank fraud investigation MORE (I-Vt.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have called for “Day of Action” rallies across the country on Sunday.

Sanders's office noted earlier this week that more than a dozen rallies in support of ObamaCare have been scheduled across the country.

Democrats are also using social media, including Facebook Live and Snapchat, to try to build support among voters beyond the Beltway, trying to recapture the strategy that won them headlines last year on a pair of gun control protests.

The Democratic push hit a small speed bump earlier Monday, when Schumer kicked off the protest on social media by accidentally tweeting "Don't #MakeAmericaGreatAgain."

He quickly deleted the tweet and replaced it with Democratic slogan "don't #MakeAmericaSickAgain."

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) — who like Warren is getting early 2020 speculation — noted that social media can help blast Democrats’ fight against Republicans to voters across the country.

"This is exciting for me because ... maybe 10 years ago in the Senate they were often fighting with just normal things, which is you know on the Senate floor," he said on a Facebook Live video. "But we have the capacity to know to connect to people in greater ways."

As of 11 p.m. two Facebook Live videos posted by Democrats had been viewed nearly 550,000 times.