Cruel September shifts to Democrats

Cruel September shifts to Democrats
© Greg Nash

Democrats feeling whiplash over the GOP’s new effort to repeal ObamaCare have sought to step up their opposition to the new bill, which could be headed for a vote next week.

After a Monday night floor protest, Democrats pointed to a bipartisan letter from 10 governors on Tuesday as a reason to kill the GOP bill.

“Only open, bipartisan approaches can achieve true, lasting reforms,” the governors wrote, arguing against legislation from GOP Sens. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamQuestions mount over Trump-Putin discussions The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia Overnight Defense: Trump inviting Putin to DC | Senate to vote Monday on VA pick | Graham open to US-Russia military coordination in Syria MORE (S.C.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyGOP senators introduce resolution endorsing ICE Lawmakers pitch dueling plans for paid family leave New push to break deadlock on paid family leave MORE (La.) that would repeal ObamaCare and deliver block grant funding to states for health care.


Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval (R) signed the letter, as did independent Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, whose state is represented by a key swing vote, GOP Sen. Lisa MurkowskiLisa Ann MurkowskiThis week: GOP mulls vote on ‘abolish ICE’ legislation Dem infighting erupts over Supreme Court pick McConnell: Senate to confirm Kavanaugh by Oct. 1 MORE.

Democrats are feeling anxiety over the fact that Republicans are suddenly close again to passing legislation to repeal ObamaCare.

“Nervous. Alarmed. Until there are three announced ‘no’ votes everybody should be throwing everything they've got at this,” said Sen. Brian SchatzBrian Emanuel SchatzOn The Money: Trump rips Fed over rate hikes | Dems fume as consumer agency pick refuses to discuss border policy | Senate panel clears Trump IRS nominee Senate approves resolution warning Trump not to hand over US officials Senate to vote on resolution telling Trump not to hand over former diplomats MORE (D-Hawaii).

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyDem senator ties Kavanaugh confirmation vote to Trump-Putin controversy Full interview: Chris Murphy speaks out on the Trump-Putin meeting and what it means Dem senator: NATO has become 'functionally obsolete' under Trump MORE (D-Conn.) also hinted at the paranoia some Democrats are feeling, questioning if a bipartisan effort led by Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMontana governor raises profile ahead of potential 2020 bid Dems pressure GOP to take legal action supporting pre-existing conditions Trump administration to explore importing prescription drugs MORE (R-Tenn.) was “a deliberate tactic to distract Democrats.”

Alexander pulled the plug on the effort Tuesday.

“I spent two weeks getting ready for those hearings,” Murphy said.

Just two weeks ago, ObamaCare repeal appeared to be little more than a dream for Republicans.

When the month opened, it was thought that September would be dominated by fights over raising the debt ceiling and funding the government. It was expected to be a cruel September for Republicans.

A deal between President Trump and Democratic leaders to lift the debt ceiling and fund the government through the beginning of December only raised Democratic spirits further.

The media widely declared Democrats to be the winners of the deal, which seemed to highlight the dysfunction within the GOP and open a possible era of bipartisan deals between the White House and minority party.

Democrats had even started looking at the next steps for expanding health care, with Sen. Bernie SandersBernard (Bernie) SandersBernie Sanders: Trump 'so tough' on child separations but not on Putin Bernie Sanders tells Kansas crowd: This 'sure doesn’t look' like a GOP state The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and Congress at odds over Russia MORE (I-Vt.) leading more than a dozen senators in introducing a single-payer healthcare system.

Now those feelings turned around.

The debt-and-spending bill actually cleared floor time for the new ObamaCare repeal effort, giving Senate Republicans precious legislative days to try again.

They need every day they can get. After Sept. 30, they will be unable to move their bill using special budgetary rules that prevent Democrats from filibustering the legislation. Without those rules, their repeal effort is doomed.

“We have been in bipartisan negotiations for the last three weeks because that’s what Republicans told us was the order of the day,” Murphy said. “I wasn’t worrying about it because Lamar Alexander was telling us to focus on the bipartisan process.”

Democrats stayed on the Senate floor for almost four hours Monday night to knock the GOP legislation. They urged supporters to reach out to senators about opposing the new bill.

“It's even more dangerous and more reckless than the previous bill that has been defeated,” Senate Democratic Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerData confirm that marijuana decriminalization is long overdue Pollster: Kavanaugh will get Dem votes Democrats slam Trump for considering Putin’s ’absurd’ request to question Americans MORE (N.Y.) said of the new GOP bill at a press conference Tuesday. “Simply put TrumpCare is a sham. ... The process is awful.”

Schumer is threatening to use any procedural tool at the Democrats’ disposal to slow down the bill.

Murphy warned things will just get worse in the Senate if Republicans are successful.

“If they were to pass this bill without a [Congressional Budget Office] score, without committee hearings and without markups it would blow up the Senate,” he said.

If Democrats are feeling worried, Republicans are feeling confident.

Graham appeared bullish about his replacement bill’s prospects during a leadership press conference.

“So here's the choice for America: Socialism or federalism?” Graham said, knocking “BernieCare.”

He predicted that he would ultimately be able to get enough support to pass his legislation, which would end funding for Medicaid’s expansion and the health-care law’s subsidies that help low-income people buy insurance. In their place, block grants would be given to states.

Democrats can’t block a push to repeal ObamaCare without some Republican support. They need to win over at least three GOP senators, leaving them scrambling to figure out how to head off Republicans bent on killing off the former president’s signature legislative achievement for good.

The bill still lacks a score from the Congressional Budget Office and is unlikely to get a committee markup, facts that Democrats hope could inspire one or more GOP senators to oppose the legislation.

Schatz said that while the debate was “about health care first,” it could reverberate across the Senate.

“It also is about how we conduct ourselves as senators," he said. “Whether or not there’s real commitment on the part of Republicans to restore the dignity of this institution by following the regular order and working together."