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 GrahamCentrist efforts to convince Trump to end shutdown falter Overnight Defense: Four Americans killed in Syria suicide attack | State of the Union becomes latest shutdown flashpoint | Missile defense review on track for Thursday release White House condemns 'terror attack' that killed US troops in Syria MORE (S.C.) and Bill CassidyWilliam (Bill) Morgan CassidyMnuchin meets with Senate GOP to shore up ranks on Russia sanctions vote Trump on declaring national emergency: 'Not going to do it so fast' Acosta mocked for border reporting: 'Exactly – walls work!' 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 MurkowskiSenators look for possible way to end shutdown Leaders nix recess with no shutdown deal in sight McConnell: Senate will not recess if government still shutdown 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 SchatzCardi B expresses solidarity with federal workers not getting paid Action on climate and energy: Beyond partisan talking points Dem senator jokes about holding drinking game for Trump's primetime address MORE (D-Hawaii).

Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyCardi B expresses solidarity with federal workers not getting paid Some Senate Dems see Ocasio-Cortez as weak spokeswoman for party Dem senator jokes about holding drinking game for Trump's primetime address MORE (D-Conn.) also hinted at the paranoia some Democrats are feeling, questioning if a bipartisan effort led by Sen. Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderMcConnell blocks House bill to reopen government for second time Senators restart shutdown talks — and quickly hit roadblocks GOP senators propose bill to pay 'excepted' workers during shutdown 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) SandersTexas man indicted over allegations he created fraudulent campaign PACs Overnight Energy: Wheeler weathers climate criticism at confirmation hearing | Dems want Interior to stop drilling work during shutdown | 2018 was hottest year for oceans Dems offer measure to raise minimum wage to per hour 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 SchumerCardi B expresses solidarity with federal workers not getting paid Government shutdown impasse is a leveraging crisis Overnight Health Care: Dem chair meets Trump health chief on drug prices | Trump officials sued over new Kentucky Medicaid work rules | Democrats vow to lift ban on federal funds for abortions 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."