Dems step up attacks on GOP ObamaCare bill

Senate Democrats are stepping up their attacks on the GOP's push to repeal and replace ObamaCare as the legislative battle enters a critical two-week stretch.

Democrats can’t block a healthcare bill on their own, but are threatening to shut down the Senate in retaliation for Republicans negotiating their legislation in a string of closed-door GOP-only meetings.

The move, they hope, will put Republicans on the defense as they look to force a vote as soon as next week, when lawmakers will leave for the July 4th recess.

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“This radical departure from normal procedure on a bill of such consequence leaves the Senate minority little choice but to depart from normal procedure as well,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerCan Mueller be more honest than his colleagues? Throwing some cold water on all of the Korean summit optimism House Republicans push Mulvaney, Trump to rescind Gateway funds MORE said from the Senate floor. “If the Republicans won't debate their healthcare in the open for the American people to see, they shouldn't expect business as usual.”

A senior Senate Democratic aide said senators will begin objecting to routine unanimous consent requests, with a narrow exception for non-controversial “honorary resolutions.”

If Democrats stick to their tactics it will allow them to cut-short committee hearings and block meetings after the Senate has been in session for two hours.

They’ll also use the Senate’s procedural rulebook to try to derail the bill — moves that are unlikely to succeed given the Republican majority — and draw comparisons between the GOP process and the months of public debate over the Affordable Care Act.  

An aide declined to say when Democrats would announce any next potential steps. But Schumer signaled that Democrats could further escalate their fight, saying the moves announced on Monday are “merely the first steps we’re prepared to take.”

“Republicans are drafting this bill in secret because they’re ashamed of it, plain and simple,” he said.

Schumer’s comments are being echoed across the Democratic caucus.

Several Democrats, including Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod Campbell BrownTrump VA pick faces challenge to convince senators he’s ready for job Overnight Finance: Senate repeals auto-lending guidance, shattering precedent with vote | House passes IRS reform bills | Senate GOP fears tax cut sequel Dem Senator open to bid from the left in 2020 MORE (Ohio) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyOvernight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes 32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules Duckworth brings her baby to Senate vote, drawing a crowd MORE (Ore.), demanded on Monday that Republican “show us the bill.” Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetOvernight Health Care: GOP pushes stiff work requirements for food stamps | Johnny Isakson opens up about family's tragic loss to opioids | Republicans refuse to back vulnerable Dem's opioids bill | Dems offer new public option plan Lawmakers discuss Latino education gap The Hill's Morning Report: Hannity drawn into Cohen legal fight MORE (D-Colo.) argued Republicans are “so ashamed” of the health care bill, “they won’t even share it with GOP colleagues.”

Sens. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersSanders ally pushes Dems on cutting superdelegates Sanders: ‘Trump's agenda is dead’ if Democrats win back majority Hannity snaps back at 'Crybaby' Todd: 'Only conservatives have to disclose relationships?' MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenDem senators demand Trump explain ties to Koch brothers 'Fearless Girl' statue to be moved away from Wall Street bull Sanders, Warren, O’Rourke inspire patriotic small donor waves MORE (D-Mass.) both pledged during a joint Facebook Q&A that they would use any procedural tool available to try to quash the GOP bill.

Sanders said Republicans are negotiating behind closed doors because their bill “stinks to high hell.” 

Republicans fired back, arguing Democrats have done nothing to help them improve the healthcare system.

“Senate Ds threatening obstruction this week. But what’s new? They refuse to lift a finger to help with runaway premiums under Obamacare,” Sen. John CornynJohn CornynJoe Scarborough predicts Trump won't run in 2020 Republicans divided over legislation protecting Mueller Democrats mull audacious play to block Pompeo MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said on Twitter on Monday.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP senator: Democratic opposition to Pompeo 'driven 100 percent by politics' Pompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel GOP poised to advance rules change to speed up Trump nominees MORE (R-Ky.) added from the Senate floor that the status quo is “simply unsustainable.”

“Senate Republicans will continue working because it’s clear that we cannot allow Americans’ healthcare to continue on its current downward trajectory under Obamacare, taking so many families with it,” he said.

Republicans have a narrow path to passing a healthcare bill. They have 52 seats, meaning they can only lose two GOP senators and still let Vice President Pence to break a tie.

McConnell hasn’t publicly committed to the July 4th deadline for voting on a bill, but GOP senators want to wrap up their work on healthcare—which is months behind schedule—so they can move onto other priorities.

No Democrat is expected to support repeal, but Schumer sent McConnell a letter late last week requesting an all-Senate meeting. Democrats sent a follow-up letter on Monday, listing dozens of locations that Republicans could hold a hearing if they wanted to.

Democrats face intense pressure from liberal groups to shut down the Senate floor and block committees from meeting to slow down the GOP. Indivisible, a progressive advocacy group, urged its members to ask Democratic senators to “resist through procedure.”

“[Senate Democrats] also need to draw more attention by accepting and introducing thousands of amendments during vote-a-rama. Demand it,” Indivisible said on Twitter.

The vote-a-rama is an hours-long session in which any member can demand a vote on an amendment. Under Senate rules, Republicans have to hold the marathon session before they can take a final vote on an ObamaCare repeal bill.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee announced on Monday that it had launched a new ad against Sens. Dean HellerDean Arthur HellerSenate GOP wary of new tax cut sequel GOP Senate hopefuls race to catch up with Dems Family, friends mourn death of Barbara Bush MORE (Nev.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePompeo lacks votes for positive vote on panel Overnight Energy: Senate confirms Bridenstine as NASA chief | Watchdog probes Pruitt’s use of security detail | Emails shine light on EPA science policy changes Arizona GOP tinkers with election rules with an eye on McCain's seat MORE (Ariz.) — the two most vulnerable Republicans up for reelection in an otherwise favorable year for the party — as well as Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz's Dem challenger slams Time piece praising Trump Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election 32 male senators back Senate women's calls to change harassment rules MORE (R-Texas) and Florida Gov. Rick Scott.

“Republicans can try and ram through their health care bill in secret, but voters will know exactly who to blame when their costs spike and their coverage is cut,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Spokesman David Bergstein.

Meanwhile, the Community Catalyst Action Fund said on Monday that is targeting senators in Alaska, Arizona, Maine, Nevada and West Virginia with a mix of TV and radio ads, urging them to oppose the GOP legislation.

Republicans are returning fire, with the National Republican Senatorial Campaign (NRSC) targeting Democrats up for reelection in red-states carried by Trump in the 2016 election.

Michael Reed, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, accused Democrats of having “crocodile tears.”

“Democrat efforts to feign outrage over healthcare negotiations should be seen for what it is – a pure partisan game aimed at placating the far-left,” he said on Monday in a note to reporters. “Good luck now trying to tell voters that it is Republicans who are refusing to negotiate.”