Amid GOP’s Secret Health Care Bill Negotiations, Sen. Schumer Calls for All-Senators Meeting

In an effort to ramp up the pressure on Republicans over health care, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer issued a letter Friday requesting an all-senators meeting in the Old Senate Chamber next week.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaks during a weekly press conference following a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill on June 13, 2017. (Credit: Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Senate Democrats have been blasting Republicans for deliberating the health care bill behind closed doors, saying they’ve only been learning of the ongoing negotiations through media reports.

“Please accept our invitation to sit down together in the old Senate Chamber so we can hear your plans and discuss how to make health care more affordable and accessible in the United States,” Schumer writes in the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, which was sent to the press by Schumer’s office.

The Senate stopped meeting in the Old Senate Chamber in 1859, and the room is now occasionally used for ceremonial events or moments of bipartisan negotiations. In 2013, for example, the body met there as it debated changes to filibuster rules.

Republicans have been working on a Senate version to repeal and replace Obamacare since House Republicans passed a measure more than a month ago. They contest accusations of secrecy, arguing that they’ve been holding open debates and hearings on their disagreements with Obamacare since it became law seven years ago.

While Republican leaders in the Senate, like McConnell, have pitched a vote before the July 4 recess, many in the party have expressed doubt that Republicans will reach that deadline with only 10 legislative days left.

Meanwhile, Democrats have been holding news conferences and calling on Republicans to share with them more details of the negotiations. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, said Thursday that the party plans to increase publicity efforts to call out the GOP on the issue.

“I believe you’re going to see a grassroots juggernaut from one side of the country to another that the next two weeks are pivotal,” he told reporters. “We believe this is go time.”

McConnell’s office did not immediately return a request for comment on the letter.