Last week’s show of unity appears to have worn off on Capitol Hill, as Senate Democrats are planning a massive slowdown of the chamber’s business if GOP leadership doesn’t bring its health care plan out in the open.
Per a Monday story at Roll Call, Democrats are planning to take the Senate floor Monday evening with a series of speeches to protest GOP secrecy on the Senate’s version of the American Health Care Act, which passed out of the House earlier this year.
“Republicans are drafting this bill in secret because they’re ashamed of it, plain and simple,” said Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., in a statement.
The bill is currently so secret that even President Trump’s secretary of Health and Human Services and the second-highest ranking Republican in the Senate (and the third person in the line of presidential succession, mind you) say that they haven’t seen a copy of it.
And this version has already been sent off to the Congressional Budget Office to be scored.
The concern from the Left is that the new bill won’t be close enough to Obamacare’s original (failing) structure for comfort, while concerns from conservatives have been that it will do even less to get rid of that structure than the House version.
The prospect of a slowdown comes at a time when the Republican majority could ill afford it.
Already coming close to the buzzer on the self-imposed July 4 deadline to pass some sort of health care legislation, there’s also a laundry list of other agenda items that Congress has to send to the president’s desk in the coming months.
As I pointed out last week, that to-do list also includes (but nowhere near stops at):
– The NDAA (the military’s budget)
-The rest of the budget
-Reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Homeland Security
-Doing something about the debt ceiling
If none of the above happens in time, everything would most likely get rolled into a must-pass, 11th hour continuing resolution, which will keep growing the national debt at the same rate it has been, and produce – by itself – no measureable policy difference than when President Obama was in office.
One way to address this would be to work through Congress’ annual August recess – an idea that is now gaining popularity, according to The Hill.
Combine that with the Senate’s already notoriously glacial pace on passing legislation, and the GOP could be looking down the business end of a fully loaded political disaster in 2018, when it comes time to campaign again, with key promises from the last cycle still in limbo.
But complete obstruction isn’t a likely outcome, either. There are things Democrats want to get done as well, like raising the debt limit, which would require agreement in the chamber to move forward. So, the question in that scenario would be whether or not the minority is willing to take the blame for a government shutdown over the secrecy of the GOP’s health care bill.
The important things to remember is that this isn’t really the beginning of Democrat obstruction on anything; rather, it’s the latest development of a pattern of obstruction that began in earnest with the historically hyper-partisan treatment of Trump’s Cabinet appointments. And it evolved again in May when minority leadership threatened another slowdown over Trump’s firing of former FBI Director James Comey.
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