Senate Democrats are taking over the Senate floor on Monday evening to protest the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace ObamaCare without a public hearing or public negotiations. Senators are expected to speak from the floor until at least midnight.
The Hill will be providing updates throughout the night on the Democrats’ healthcare protest here.
Casey wraps up Senate talkathon after more than six hours
Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) wrapped up the Senate’s talkathon early Tuesday morning, pressing Senate Republicans to help current Medicaid recipients keep their coverage.
“We can debate the outlines and the broad numbers of this legislation, but what I would hope would not be up for debate is that those who have the benefit now of Medicaid …I would hope that it would not be much of a debate that we should continue to help those families and those individuals,” Casey said.
Casey added that “at a minimum” lawmakers should be able to get a deal on the issue, which has also sparked division among Republicans.
“I think that’s something both parties should be able to agree on. Unfortunately, the House bill in no way … agreed with that assertion,” he said.
Casey ended his remarks shortly after midnight, nearly six-and-a-half hours after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) kicked off the marathon of floor speeches.
Roughly two dozen Democratic senators took part in the floor protest as the caucus prepares to escalate its battle this week over the GOP repeal and replacement effort.
The Senate will come back into session at 10 a.m. on Tuesday. Both parties are expected to discuss healthcare during their closed-door caucus lunches.
Booker invokes Senate history, ‘civic gospel’ in healthcare fight
Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) invoked the Senate’s standing as the world’s “greatest deliberative body” in urging Republicans to back down from their push to fast-track their effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
“This is a moment. It’s a test. History will look back and see what this body did at this moment in history. I fear we’re going to fail the test,” Booker said from the Senate floor on Monday evening.
Booker added that the Affordable Care Act, despite GOP criticism, didn’t get an “express train” during the Obama administration, but instead marked the second longest session in Senate history.
“This healthcare bill involved such debate and discussion and the nation participated,” he said, citing multiple bipartisan hearings and amendments.
The New Jersey Democrat, considered a potential 2020 White House contender, also referenced the late Sen. Strom Thurmond’s filibuster of the 1957 Civil Rights Act — which sets the record of the Senate’s longest filibuster.
“It demonstrates what this body’s rules have been about for a long time,” Booker said, using the more-than 24-hour filibuster as an example of deliberative debate.
Booker added that Senate Republicans have “some of the smartest minds” in the country, and with the Senate’s history, the current plan to pass a healthcare bill without a hearing and substantial debate “should be shocking to consciousness.”
“In matters that made it possible for me to stand on the Senate floor like integration and civil rights there was a process, and somehow in the last three and a half years in the name of what? A vicious brand of partisanship? …It is an insult to the history and the traditions of this body,” Booker said. “There is honor on this place that isn’t on TV.”
Murphy: GOP healthcare process “breaking the Senate”
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) warned that Republicans are “breaking the Senate” by hashing out their bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare behind closed doors — with no plans to hold a public hearing before a vote.
“Why are my constituents not allowed to see the details about what’s about to happen to their lives?” Murphy asked from the Senate floor. “You’re breaking the Senate, and it won’t get put back together that easily.”
Murphy added that Republicans might not have believed that Democrats wanted to work with them to improve the healthcare system but “you didn’t even try. …Democrats tried. Democrats spent a whole year” negotiating the Affordable Care Act.
“My constituents are Americans just like the constituents in Republican states are Americans,” he said. “People hate this bill. They hate this bill, and they hate it in part because they don’t trust the process.”
Murphy added that Republicans will cause a “death spiral” because the Congressional Budget Office estimated that under the House bill 14 million more people would lose their health insurance during the first year of the bill. That number would grow to 23 million more being uninsured over 10 years.
“That is a humanitarian catastrophe,” he said. “Why are we doing this? Why would you choose to inflict this kind of pain on people.”
Murphy, trying to contextualize 23 million people, read off a handful of states that have a combined population that would be equal to the number of people who will become uninsured over 10 years.
He added that if Republicans repeal ObamaCare “people are going to die.”
“There’s something a little evil in wanting to do this to people,” Murphy said. “Nobody should want this to happen to people.”
Franken knocks Trump over flip-flopping on House healthcare bill
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) became the latest Democratic senator to use President Trump’s own words against him on Monday evening.
“It went from great to mean. In the Rose Garden it was ‘great.’ Now just a few weeks later that same great bill is ‘mean,'” Franken said from the Senate floor.
Several Democratic senators have referenced Trump’s comments made to Republicans during a closed-door meeting last week, during which he knocked the House bill and urged senators to be more generous.
The comments were a reversal from Trump’s made during a press conference with House Republicans celebrating their vote to pass the bill, during which he called it a “great plan.”
Franken added that there were would be a large amount of overlap between the House and Senate bills “but we can’t be sure because the Senate has had precisely zero hearings, zero days of public floor debate.”
Franken also knocked Republicans for refusing to hold a hearing or committee meetings on their legislation after previously accusing Democrats of trying to rush the Affordable Care Act.
“The irony is palpable. Feel the palpable irony. …Feel it Mr. President? Does everybody feel it?” Franken asked looking around the Senate chamber.
Dem senator uses McConnell’s words against him
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) knocked Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for fast-tracking a healthcare bill after criticizing Democrats in 2009 when they floated using the same procedure.
The Kentucky Republican said in a 2009 statement that “fast-tracking a major legislative overhaul such as healthcare reform or a new national energy tax without the benefit of a full and transparent debate does a disservice to the American people.”
Merkley read the 2009 quote next to a poster with McConnell’s face on it, adding “that was Majority Leader Mitch McConnell not so long ago.”
“What happened to that value?” the Democratic senator asked. “Here he is today leading the effort have zero input from the American public. …Zero bipartisan discussion of the pros and cons.”
McConnell’s April 2009 comments came after Democratic aides told Reuters that they could try to pass the Affordable Care Act under reconciliation, the fast-track process that allows a bill to pass by simple majority and which Republicans are now using for their bill.
Senate Democrats initially passed their own healthcare bill, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), with 60 votes near the end of 2009.
But after GOP Sen. Scott Brown (Mass.) was elected to succeed the late Democratic Sen. Ted Kennedy (Mass.), Democrats lost their 60th vote and passed a follow up bill, which represented a deal with House Democrats, that changed the ACA under reconciliation.
Senate Republicans fired back at Democratic criticism of their closed-door negotiations earlier Monday, blasting out a release rounding up articles that charged that Democrats, led by then Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), “wrote the Senate Obamacare bill ‘in private,’ ‘behind closed doors.'”
Merkley also knocked the forthcoming legislation as a “vampire bill.”
“This has been called the vampire bill. The Republican vampire bill. Why? Because the writers, the secret 13 writers, are afraid for it to see the light of day,” he said.
Warren: ‘Phones ringing off the hook’ over ObamaCare repeal push
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said her office has gotten a barrage of phone calls as Republicans prepare to force a vote this summer on repealing and replacing ObamaCare.
“[We’ve gotten] an avalanche of voicemails and phones ringing off the hook. Since last week, I have gotten more than 1,000 phone calls from people who are pleading with me to do whatever I can to stop Republicans,” Warren, who represents a solidly blue state, said from the Senate floor.
Warren also read letters from constituents concerned about the GOP effort, saying they were examples of “people Senate Republicans want to kick to the curb” and Americans are “terrified down to their bones.”
“People are literally in tears on the phone. They are scared and they are angry,” she said.
Warren blasted the Senate GOP legislation, which is still being hashed out, arguing it isn’t a healthcare bill but a “tax cut for billionaires.”
“I have a message for these Senate Republicans: We don’t care how long we have to stand up here. …Democrats are here to keep demanding that you show us this bill, and we’re going to keep insisting that you account for its shameful contents,” she said.
Several Democratic senators namedropping Trump
A growing number of Democratic senators are name-dropping President Trump as they push back against the GOP repeal and replace effort.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Patty Murray (Wash.), Tim Kaine (Va.) and Kamala Harris (Calif.) all referenced Trump’s remarks made during a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans last week that the House-passed healthcare bill was “mean.”
“Last week we learned President Trump is now saying that the House bill is, and I quote him, ‘mean’. ..Well that is certainly an understatement from a president who doesn’t often do subtly and it’s surprising to hear after we all saw him celebrate the House bill at the White House when it passed,” said Murray, who is the top Democrat on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.
Blumenthal added Republicans are trying to supress “the cruelty that lies in their alleged health care bill President Trump has called ‘mean,’ and that is an understatement.”
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) also spoke from the Senate floor next to an enlarged print out of Trump’s Twitter pledge that he wouldn’t cut entitlement programs.
“The president promised he wasn’t going to do that [cut Medicaid]. I would ask my colleagues to live up to that,” she said.
Trump touted his support for Medicaid during the GOP presidential primary.
I was the first & only potential GOP candidate to state there will be no cuts to Social Security, Medicare & Medicaid. Huckabee copied me.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) ripped Republicans for writing their healthcare bill behind closed doors on Monday evening.
“So I say to the Republican leadership: What are you afraid of? Bring that bill out,” Sanders, who is also a member of Democratic leadership, said from the Senate floor.
Sanders added that GOP senators “should be embarrassed” by the secretive process to hash out the ObamaCare repeal and replace legislation, and lawmakers need to have a “series of hearings.”
“It should tell you something that major, major legislation is being written at this moment and most Republicans don’t have a clue what’s in that legislation,” he said.
Sanders, like Democratic senators, compared the months of public haggling over the Affordable Care Act to the current legislative effort, where GOP senators are discussing their forthcoming proposal during a string of closed-door meetings.
“I find it amazing that those same Republicans seem to think it’s OK for legislation to be written behind closed doors and not have one single committee hearing,” he said.
Kaine urges GOP to join them
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.), who is up for reelection in 2018, noted that Democrats will be on the Senate floor debating healthcare and urged Republicans to join them.
“Democrats are on the Senate floor ready to debate health care fixes. Where are Republicans and where is the bill? ” Kaine said on Twitter.
Democrats are on the Senate floor ready to debate health care fixes. Where are Republicans and where is the bill? #ShowUsTheBill
Kaine added he is heading to the floor to join his colleagues, who are expected to hold a talkathon protesting the GOP effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare until at least midnight from the Senate chamber.
Though GOP senators have to preside over the Senate through the marathon of Democratic speeches — because Republicans are in the majority — no Republican senator has said they will participate in the floor protest.
Dem senator: ‘Even the president’ calls GOP bill ‘mean’
Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) gave President Trump a shout out from the Senate floor, noting he called the House-passed healthcare legislation “mean.”
“Even though the authors of this bill have tried to conceal their plan this bill would be nothing short of disaster. We’ve been told it’s about 80 percent the same as the bill passed by the House. A bill so catastrophic that even the president, who hailed its passage, now called it ‘mean,'” said Harris, who is getting early 2020 White House speculation.
Trump criticized the House bill during a closed-door meeting with Senate Republicans last week, urging them to make their proposal more generous.
The president has previously praised the House legislation, calling it a “great plan” during a celebratory press conference with Republican lawmakers after they passed the bill.
Harris also turned an impromptu sneeze from a staffer into a joke about why its important to keep ObamaCare.
Harris was discussing the impacts of the House bill — including that an estimated 23 million more people would become uninsured over 10 years — when a staffer sneezed.
“Bless you. And that is another reason why we need the Affordable Care Act to be in place,” Harris added, prompting laughter from staff members on the Senate floor.
McConnell shoots down additional Democratic requests
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) blocked two additional requests from Democrats aimed at slowing down the GOP’s effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) asked for unanimous consent that Republicans not be able to bring their bill to the Senate floor until both the Senate Finance Committee and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee hold meetings on the bill, with lawmakers able to offer amendments.
“At this moment I’m asking for our normal process for any bill, any modest bill, but certainly a major bill to get thorough Democratic consideration…and that means committee hearings and that means experts testifying and that means input from citizens,” he said.
Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) separately asked that the House healthcare bill be sent to the two committees and that the panels remove any provisions that increase health care costs, reduce coverage, increase costs for those with preexisting conditions, or gives a tax break to millionaires.
McConnell, as expected, blocked both of the requests.
Democrats lashing GOP effort off Senate floor
Democrats are also using social media to blast the GOP effort off the Senate floor on Monday night, urging supporters to make sure they are voicing their opposition.
“You can make sure that all senators understand how strongly you feel about this flawed bill,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said as part of a Facebook Live event. “Remember political change is bottoms up.”
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) also blasted the GOP negotiations, arguing “several men are behind closed doors” hashing out the legislation.
“That to me is a travesty,” she said.
McConnell convened a working group of roughly a dozen senators to meet twice a week on the healthcare legislation, as well as discussing the issue during caucus lunches.
Though all the senators initially included in the group are all men, GOP leadership has stressed the the caucus’s female senators are welcome to join the meetings.
McConnell blocks Democratic efforts to derail ObamaCare bill
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) objected to a string of procedural requests from Democrats aimed at forcing the House-passed ObamaCare repeal bill to be sent to a Senate committee or slow down floor action.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked that the Senate not be able to vote on the ObamaCare repeal bill until it got a hearing at the Finance Committee.
“We’re willing to have debate, hearings, amendments. Unless there’s a dramatic change and I am misreading where my colleagues on the other side of the are are going, they’re not going there,” Schumer said.
McConnell fired back that lawmakers will have time to review the Senate’s bill, once its written, and there will be “an open amendment process.”
“I think we’ll have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill,” McConnell said, when pressed if lawmakers would have at least 10 hours to review the bill.
The Kentucky Republican added that the healthcare fight has been “very partisan from the beginning,” noting Democrats aren’t expected to vote for the GOP legislation.
Democrats also launched several other requests, including that the Senate not be able to vote on the healthcare bill until the Congressional Budget Office certifies that no veteran will lose their insurance; that the Finance and Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committees be able to vote on it or amend it on it; and that a bill must be made available online at least 72 hours before the Senate votes.
McConnell, as expected, objected to each of the requests.
Schumer warns Republicans of “political blunder”
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned Republicans that they will pay a political price over their legislation to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
“They don’t want you to know about this bill. …They don’t want you to see that millions will lose coverage,” Schumer said from the Senate floor.
Schumer’s remarks kick off what is expected to a long night of Democratic speeches opposing the GOP push to pass a healthcare bill without holding a public hearing or debating the bill in public.
Schumer added that it would be “better” for Republicans if they had an “open process.”
“When you do things in the dark of night there are individual accommodations made that are going to look ugly when they are made public,” Schumer said.
No Democrat is expected to support the GOP effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare.