Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blasted the Republican plans to repeal and replace Obamacare and kicked off a series of procedural moves for Democrats to take in order to hold the Senate floor Monday night in protest.
Democrats’ coordinated effort doesn’t actually stall any work that’s being done on the bill; it’s considered more a night of theatrics for Democrats. But Democrats are attempting to draw attention to the behind-closed-door process that Republicans are taking in drafting the bill.
Democrats are mostly hitting Republicans for not holding open hearings as the bill is being drawn up. “We will fight hard to prevent this bill from occurring. We will use the procedural means we have — small as they might be,” Schumer said.
Using tactics like parliamentary inquiries and unanimous consent requests, Democrats are drawing comparison to the process used to usher in Obamacare.
For example, Schumer used a parliamentary inquiry to ask on the floor how many days the Senate was in executive session to debate Obamacare. With the answer ready at their fingertips, the Republican presiding officer in the chamber — this time it was Sen. Joni Ernst — read out loud that the Senate was in executive session for 25 days.
Schumer repeated the “25 days” statistic, arguing that despite the fact that Obamacare was partisan, “we still had the courage to have the debate on the floor.”
Other senators joined in to make similar comparisons or to request the bill to go before a committee — to which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell objected on the floor.
Responding to complaints about a lack of transparency, McConnell argued that senators will get plenty of time to see and debate the bill during the amendment process.
Schumer pressed McConnell, asking him twice whether the Senate will have at least 10 hours to review the measure before it goes to the floor for a vote.
McConnell answered both times: “I think we’ll have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.”
“I rest my case,” Schumer said.
While McConnell was present to object at the beginning of the night, any Republican member present on the floor can object.
A senior Democratic aide told CNN earlier Monday that Democrats plan to object to routine requests to let the chamber operate, including its scheduling votes or allowing committees to meet for extended hearings, a move aimed at escalating the fight over health care.
Schumer warned Republicans on Monday night that “they shouldn’t expect business as usual in the Senate.”