Democrats plan to halt Senate business over GOP health bill

Senate Democrats plan to obstruct business in the Senate starting Monday night as a way to further highlight their objection to a GOP health reform bill. From Politico:

Beginning Monday night, Democrats will start objecting to all unanimous consent requests in the Senate, according to a Democratic aide. They plan to control the floor of the chamber Monday night and try to force the House-passed health care bill to committee in a bid to further delay it…

“Republicans are drafting this bill in secret because they’re ashamed of it, plain and simple,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. “These are merely the first steps we’re prepared to take in order to shine a light on this shameful Trumpcare bill and reveal to the public the GOP’s true intentions: to give the uber-wealthy a tax break while making middle class Americans pay more for less health care coverage. If Republicans won’t relent and debate their health care bill in the open for the American people to see, then they shouldn’t expect business as usual in the Senate.”

In addition the new obstructionism, the Democrats will be holding a “talkathon” Monday night. From the Hill:

The late-night speeches, which are being organized by Sen. Patty Murray(D-Wash.), comes as Democrats are under growing pressure to grind the Senate to a halt as the fight over ObamaCare’s fate enters a key two-week stretch.

Indivisible, a progressive advocacy group, is urging its members to ask Democratic senators to “resist through procedure” by blocking routine committee hearings or filibustering on the Senate floor.

Indivisible, the group which has been protesting at GOP town hall events, published a strategy guide last week (June 12th) which called specifically for both a filibuster and procedural resistance in the Senate:

Your Democratic Senator can draw attention to the secret process and slow down Senate business, through a combination of filibustering and  “withholding consent.” The rules of the Senate are so complicated that Senators have to regularly consent to waiving some of them so that they can actually get work done. That includes shortening time for debates, expediting consideration of amendments, and scheduling committees. Your Senator can slow the Senate down to a crawl and focus attention to TrumpCare by withholding his or her consent on legislative business.

In order to apply pressure on Senators to do this, Indivisible published “call scripts” last week. Here’s a sample:

Caller: I’m afraid it’s going to take more than talk and tweet storms to stop this terrible bill. We have to slow this process way down and call attention to the terrible bill Republicans are trying to jam through in total darkness. We have to use every tool available. Does [Senator] intend to withhold her consent on all Senate business until we have hearings and a complete CBO score?

Staffer: Withholding consent doesn’t actually buy us that much time. It would only delay things by 30 hours.

Caller: I’m not just talking about refusing to agree on shortening debate time on TrumpCare or other bills. I’m talking about withholding consent on amendments, placing holds on nominations, and objecting to all unanimous consent requests until there are hearings and a complete CBO score. Will the [Senator] do that?

If you’re wondering what strategy the Democrats plan to roll out next, that’s also spelled out by Indivisible in their strategy paper. The plan is to bog down the actual vote by filing thousands of nonsense amendments to the bill.

Republicans are using a special process called “reconciliation” to jam through TrumpCare. This means they only need 51 votes, instead of the usual 60, to pass it. But the trade-off is that they have to allow an unlimited number of amendments. Any Senator can file as many amendments as they want and then call them up for a vote on the Senate floor during a period called “vote-a-rama.” Democratic Senators can and should plan thousands of amendments and keep them going until Republicans agree to have public hearings on the bill.

Republican leadership reportedly wanted to see a vote take place by the end of this week. That may be delayed, especially if the Senate decides to skip the August recess.