Dems to grind Senate to a halt over ObamaCare repeal fight
© Keren Carrion
Senate Democrats are slowing the Senate to a crawl as they escalate their fight over the GOP push to repeal and replace ObamaCare.
 
Senate Minority Leader Charles SchumerCharles (Chuck) Ellis SchumerElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw US women's soccer team reignites equal pay push MORE (D-N.Y.) announced that Democrats will invoke the so-called "two hour" rule on Tuesday, which blocks committees from meeting after the Senate has been in session for two hours.
 
"As we’ve made clear to our Republican colleagues, if they continue to insist on ramming through a secret health care bill without any public input or debate, they shouldn’t expect business as usual in the Senate," Schumer said in a statement.
 
Democrats had threatened such a move on Monday, warning that they would disrupt Senate proceedings unless Republicans agreed to debate their healthcare bill in public and give it at least one committee hearing.
 
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"Before passing a massive bill that will affect the lives of every single American, there ought to be a rigorous and robust debate in committees and a full debate on the floor," Schumer said.
 
The Senate convened at 10 a.m. on Tuesday, meaning a slate of afternoon committee hearings will have to be cancelled because of the Democratic tactics.
 
Democrats can’t block a healthcare bill on their own, but are using the hardball tactics to retaliate 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 4 recess.
 
Schumer's announcement quickly impacted a swath of Senate activity.
 
Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamElection security bills face GOP buzzsaw Election security bills face GOP buzzsaw House Intel Republican: 'Foolish' not to take info on opponent from foreign ally MORE (R-S.C.) announced on Tuesday afternoon that his hearing, scheduled for 2:30 p.m. on “concurrent congressional and criminal investigations: lessons from history," would be postponed.
 
Graham and Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseThe Hill's Morning Report - Democrats wonder: Can Nadler handle the Trump probe? The Hill's Morning Report - Democrats wonder: Can Nadler handle the Trump probe? Democrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  MORE (D-R.I.) were planning to use the hearing to help plot the path forward on their investigation into Russia's election meddling, including potential ties between the Trump campaign and Moscow.
 
Tuesday's move comes after Democrats kept the Senate in session until shortly after midnight, protesting Republicans' closed-door negotiations.
 
Republicans are eyeing a vote on their healthcare bill, which is still being finalized, as soon as next week — before senators leave for the holiday recess. No Democrats are expected to support the repeal effort.

Pointing to the months of public debate over the Affordable Care Act, Democrats argue that Republicans are trying to rush their bill through the Senate without giving Democrats and the public time to review it.

Schumer has requested an all-Senate meeting to discuss the legislation, and Democrats sent Republicans a letter on Monday listing dozens of rooms they could hold a hearing in.

Republicans have a narrow path to clearing legislation. They hold 52 seats, meaning they can only afford to lose two GOP senators and still have Vice President Pence cast a tie-breaking vote.

Democrats have frequently used their leverage on the Senate floor to try to push Republicans on a particular issue. They blocked committee hearings last month in response to President Trump's firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Former Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned last year that he would block committee meetings as part of a protest after Republicans refused to hold hearings or votes on Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama's Supreme Court nominee. Democrats quickly backed down from that threat.