Senate

Senate Dems hold floor talk-a-thon against latest ObamaCare repeal bill

Greg Nash

Senate Democrats held a nearly four-hour talk-a-thon on Monday night to protest the latest GOP bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare ahead of a potential vote next week. 

A bill, spearheaded by GOP Sens. Bill Cassidy (La.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.), to repeal much of ObamaCare is gaining momentum as Republicans face an end-of-the-month deadline to try to nix the Affordable Care Act with a simple majority. 
 
The Democratic floor protest ran just under four hours, kicking off at 6:51 p.m. with a speech by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and wrapping around 10:40 p.m. 
 
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) ripped the effort, saying it wasn’t “more reasonable” or “more moderate” than a failed attempt in July. 
 
“It’s just another version of the same old cruel, heartless, shameless plan that Republicans have spent the last eight months trying to jam down the throats of the American people,” she said from the Senate floor. 
Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), quoting baseball player “Yogi” Berra, noted that it’s “deja vu all over again.” 
 
“We’ve been through this conversation. We’ve been through the Ted Cruz fake insurance bill. … [Help] drive a stake through this health care monster,” he said. 
 
{mosads}Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) said the upcoming debate over the Graham-Cassidy health care bill is a “moral moment” and a “call to the conscience of our country.” 
“We face a time of jeopardy. Decision point. A cross roads … of our values, a cross roads of our ideals,” he said. “The decisions made here are not always easy.” 
 
In addition to Merkley, Warren, Durbin and Booker, Democratic Sens. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.), Bob Casey Jr. (Pa.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Brian Schatz (Hawaii) spoke from the floor.
 
“I want to be clear, this Cassidy bill will flunk the Jimmy Kimmel test of not hurting kids in America with pre-existing conditions,” Wyden said. 
 
Murphy, wrapping up the Democratic speeches, argued that the Graham-Cassidy healthcare bill was the “meanest version of TrumpCare yet.” 

“Kids are going to die if they don’t have access to healthcare,” Murphy said. “If 20 million people lose insurance … thousands of people won’t be able to survive.” 

The CBO hasn’t estimated yet how many individuals would lose their health insurance under the Graham-Cassidy bill. The agency previously estimated that 22 million people could become uninsured under previous GOP bill. 

Murphy noted that as a member of the Senate’s Health Committee he’s been working on a bipartisan deal aimed at stabilizing health insurance markets. 

“What a great trick Republicans will have pulled on this country. Everybody said that the repeal bill was dead; that we were going to move on to a bipartisan process,” he said. “What a great head fake that would be if it was all a lie. If it was all a ruse.” 

 
The speeches come after Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned that Democrats were “going to look at every possible way to slow this bill down.” 
 
In addition to floor speeches, Booker also held a Facebook Live event with colleagues, including Schumer, off the Senate floor to discuss the GOP healthcare bill.  
 
Democrats don’t have the ability to block a GOP ObamaCare repeal bill on their own. Under the special “reconciliation” budget rules being used by Republicans, which expire at the end of the month, GOP lawmakers can avoid a Democratic filibuster and pass a healthcare bill with a simple majority. 
 
A repeal bill has little chance of passing the Senate if Democrats are able to filibuster it, meaning Republicans would need to win over at least eight Democrats to pass a bill. 
 
The bill by Cassidy and Graham, as well GOP Sens. Dean Heller (Nev.) and Ron Johnson (Wis.), would end funding for Medicaid’s expansion and the health care law’s subsidies that help people buy insurance. In their place, block grants would be given to states.
 
Cassidy and Graham have said believe they have roughly 48 GOP senators who would be willing to vote yes, putting them close, but not yet at, the 50 votes needed to let Vice President Pence break a tie. 
 
If Democrats want to block the bill they need to win over at least three GOP senators. Republican Sens. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska), Susan Collins (Maine) and John McCain (Ariz.) previously voted against the July repeal effort. 
 
The three senators have said they are undecided on Cassidy-Graham. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has also said he cannot support the legislation. 
 

—Last updated at 11:09 p.m.
Tags Bill Cassidy Bob Casey Brian Schatz Chuck Schumer Cory Booker Dean Heller Dick Durbin Elizabeth Warren Jeff Merkley John McCain Lindsey Graham Lisa Murkowski Rand Paul Ron Johnson Ron Wyden Susan Collins Tammy Baldwin Ted Cruz

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