It’s not unusual for large and controversial pieces of legislation to be written behind closed doors by the party who’s in charge and desperate to get the legislation passed.
And that’s what is playing out in the Senate now as Republicans try to finalize a bill that will, in part, repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare.
Internally, Republicans want to work out their own issues with the bill, namely what to do with the states that expanded Medicaid and added people to their rolls, before they make the legislation public. They want to avoid having their internal food fight out in the open.
While Democrats like to point to all the hearings that were conducted in the run-up to the Affordable Care Act’s passage, the bill that finally became law was basically written behind closed doors in the Senate and was voted on on Christmas Eve of 2009. During a snowstorm.
The Senate Republicans’ bill has to become public at some point. By the rules of the Senate, they cannot vote on it until the Congressional Budget Office has given it a score, so there will be some time for Democrats to try to push back on the merits of the bill instead of just how it’s being drafted.
But while they wait, Senate Democrats, led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, will try to make a media splash by holding an all-night talk-a-thon on the Senate floor Monday evening and in general, making it harder to get anything else done in the Senate under the normal rules.
On top of holding the Senate floor Monday evening with a series of speeches about health care, expect Democratic senators to object to what’s known as unanimous consent requests. These are the kind of boring procedural votes that are usually waived in the Senate. They will not be waived tonight. That makes it more difficult to get the normal business of the Senate done.
Sen. Schumer basically acknowledged that this is a tactical public relations move today when he said “These are merely the first steps we’re prepared to take in order to shine a light on this shameful Trumpcare bill.”
In the end, when Majority Leader McConnell is ready to call up the health care bill, manipulating the procedures of the Senate to gum up the works won’t have much effect. The reconciliation process being used on the health care bill allows for only 20 hours of debate. So once McConnell starts that clock, there will be a vote on it.
This video segment originally aired June 15, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.