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 SchumerChuck SchumerWhite House officials, Democrats spar over legality, substance of executive orders Schumer declines to say whether Trump executive orders are legal: They don't 'do the job' Schumer: Idea that 0 unemployment benefit keeps workers away from jobs 'belittles the American people' 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 BrownOvernight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors Democrats urge controversial Pentagon policy nominee to withdraw Chamber of Commerce, banking industry groups call on Senate to pass corporate diversity bill MORE (Ohio) and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleySenate Democrats demand answers on migrant child trafficking during pandemic Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Merkley, Sanders introduce bill limiting corporate facial recognition MORE (Ore.), demanded on Monday that Republican “show us the bill.” Sen. Michael BennetMichael Farrand BennetExpanding our health force can save lives and create jobs simultaneously How Congress is preventing a Medicare bankruptcy during COVID-19 Tom Cotton rips NY Times for Chinese scientist op-ed criticizing US coronavirus response MORE (D-Colo.) argued Republicans are “so ashamed” of the health care bill, “they won’t even share it with GOP colleagues.”

Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersTrump is fighting the wrong war Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report The Memo: Trump team pounces on Biden gaffes MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenHuffPost reporter: Biden's VP shortlist doesn't suggest progressive economic policies Hillary Clinton labels Trump coronavirus executive actions a 'stunt' Michelle Obama, Sanders, Kasich to be featured on first night of Democratic convention: report 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 CornynCOVID-19 bill limiting liability would strike the wrong balance From a Republican donor to Senate GOP: Remove marriage penalty or risk alienating voters Skepticism grows over Friday deadline for coronavirus deal MORE (R-Texas), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said on Twitter on Monday.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTrump signs executive orders after coronavirus relief talks falter Coronavirus deal key to Republicans protecting Senate majority Coronavirus talks collapse as negotiators fail to reach deal 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 HellerOn The Trail: Democrats plan to hammer Trump on Social Security, Medicare Lobbying World Democrats spend big to put Senate in play MORE (Nev.) and Jeff FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakeCheney clashes with Trump Sessions-Tuberville Senate runoff heats up in Alabama GOP lawmakers stick to Trump amid new criticism 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 CruzOn The Trail: Pence's knives come out Pat Fallon wins GOP nomination in race to succeed DNI Ratcliffe The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by the Air Line Pilots Association - Negotiators 'far apart' as talks yield little ahead of deadline 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.”