Senate Democrats on Thursday launched their strategy to fight the GOP's health care bill by trying to prevent it from getting a quick vote.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and other Democratic leaders began a series of procedural requests to slow down consideration of the legislation, a discussion draft of which posted shortly before the Senate convened.
They called for any changes to the House-passed Obamacare replacement to be made public for at least 72 hours and be subject to a Congressional Budget Office analysis of the bill's budgetary, coverage and cost implications.
"This bill will result in higher costs, less care and millions of Americans will lose their health insurance, particularly through Medicaid," Schumer said. "The way this bill cuts health care is heartless."
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, objected, saying that the 142-page measure Democrats were calling a "bill" was actually a discussion draft that will still be amended.
"None of these senators have read the bill," he said. "Our colleagues here are complaining about secrecy that doesn't exist."
Washington Senator Patty Murray took aim at the GOP negotiation process, calling it "deplorable," while speaking on the Senate floor Thursday.
"At the very least, they shouldn’t try to jam it through without the public knowing good and well what they’re up to," said an impassioned Murray, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
"We’re asking that the American people who have a right to know what is going to impact every one of their lives, every one of their families, every one of their communities, every one of their businesses has more than a discussion draft, more than ten hours debate, time to look at it and know how we’re even going to do an amendment process next week," she continued.
"Under the budget reconciliation process, there will be an unlimited number of amendments that can be offered by either side to the bill that’s ultimately field," countered Majority Whip Cornyn.
Senator Murray cautioned that the amendments will be offered without debate or proper vetting.
"No one will know what it is. It will be a chaotic process on the floor," she said.
Democrats have been hammering Republicans this week on the Senate floor for a lack of transparency on their bill that was drafted behind closed doors, arguing that Democrats held about 100 hearings and meetings on the Affordable Care Act before its passage in 2010. A vote on the bill reportedly could happen as early as next week.
Democrats began their protest earlier this week by using procedural tactics to stall Senate business, forcing the postponement of committee hearings.
“Before passing a massive bill that will affect the lives of every single American, there ought to be a rigorous and robust debate on the floor,” Schumer said in a statement.
Democrats say the bill will raise costs, deprive tens of millions of people of health care and use the money saved to pay for a tax cut for the rich.
The GOP bill was written behind closed doors and has not received a hearing. Democrats mocked Republicans in a video on Twitter Wednesday by signing R.S.V.P. cards to the GOP's "secret meeting" with question marks written after the date and location.
Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., looked into the camera: "Can you help me find out where this meeting is, what the day is and where the location is? Because they're keeping it very secret because they don't want the American people to know."
"Will attend if we can find them," Schumer said, while writing his R.S.V.P.
And they launched a new #AmericaSpeaksOut campaign to urge Americans to speak out against “Trumpcare.”
As part of that campaign, Senate Democrats held a hearing on Tuesday with health care providers and other experts to show how the Republican bill would “devastate” rural communities, depriving people of Medicaid coverage and putting rural hospitals at risk of closure.
"They’re just trying to do a blunt budget mechanism to cut people off of Medicaid, and that’s not going to help that population or the general population in controlling costs," said Senator Maria Cantwell, D-Washington.
"There are some ways to innovate and give people better access to care and drive down costs, and that’s what we should be discussing," she continued.
Though Trump celebrated passage of the House version of the health care bill in May, he has since called it “mean” and said the Senate plan should have more “heart.”
He tweeted support for the Senate version of the bill Thursday night. "Looking forward to making it really special! Remember, Obamacare is dead," he wrote on Twitter.
The House-passed health care bill, called the American Health Care Act, would lead to 23 million fewer people having health insurance by 2026, according to the Congressional Budget Office. If the Senate passes its version, the House and Senate would have to settle on compromise legislation before it can be signed by Trump.
The CBO is expected to score the Senate version of the bill by early next week. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has indicated he would like a vote before members leave for July 4th recess.