Last week, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer wrote a letter that expressed his profound disappointment at the lengths Senate Republicans have gone to to conceal their healthcare bill from public scrutiny. In it, he asked his colleagues to honor the chamber’s storied history as the “world’s greatest deliberative body” by holding an “open and robust debate.”
In response, a spokesperson from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office told The Politico that he was grateful to Senate Democrats for acknowledging that “Obamacare is not affordable or accessible.”
A great exercise in civility, truly.
This week, in a perhaps surprising development, Senate Democrats are now planning to use the procedural means available to them to engineer a fight over one of the most consequential pieces of legislation facing the country right now.
The basic idea is to stage a protest on Monday night in order to hold up normal business and force Republicans to publicly defend themselves:
The effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act has already produced a House bill that would strip 23 million people of health insurance; raise premiums for seniors, sick people, and poor people; allow states to opt out of current protections for preexisting conditions and essential benefits like maternity coverage; rollback the Medicaid expansion in addition to introducing a per-capita spending limit that would fundamentally weaken the program and toss millions of people off its rolls; and hand millionaires and billionaires a massive tax cut.
These wildly unpopular changes are also on the table for the 13 Senate Republicans writing their own version of the bill, which is why they are hiding it from the public. (When asked about the lack of transparency about the bill, one Senate aide told Axios: “We aren’t stupid.”)
The Senate version of the bill is still more likely than not to pass. But if there was a time for Senate Democrats to raise hell about the devastating consequences of dismantling healthcare for millions of people—including widespread suffering and actual death—now would be that time. The stakes couldn’t be higher, and they need to demonstrate to the public that they understand that and will do whatever they can to prevent it. Singing a song while a bill to gut healthcare for 23 million people passes the House doesn’t do that.
Democrats have come around to the realization that they actually have to do politics here. Right now, the fight is the point.