Democrats hold talkathon on Senate floor to protest GOP health care bill secrecy

Democrats took the Senate floor Monday to protest closed-door GOP negotiations.

ByABC News
June 20, 2017, 5:36 AM

— -- Democrats took the Senate floor on Monday night to protest closed-door negotiations by the Republican majority to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

In a slew of lengthy floor speeches throughout Monday night, Democrats accused GOP lawmakers of drafting its Obamacare replacement bill in secret and called for more time to consider the bill, which could see a vote as early as next week.

“Republicans are drafting this bill in secret because they’re ashamed of it, plain and simple,” minority leader Chuck Schumer, D, NY, said Monday. “If Republicans won’t relent and debate their health care bill in the open for the American people to see, then they shouldn’t expect business as usual in the Senate.”

Schumer said the “shameful Trumpcare bill” would provide tax breaks for the country’s most wealthy people and make middle-class citizens pay more for less health care.

Schumer also asked the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, R-KY, if the lawmakers would get more than 10 hours to debate the Senate bill before voting on it. McConnell responded: “I think we will have ample opportunity to read and amend the bill.”

McConnell accused Democrats -- who on Monday threatened to use a series of procedural motions to slow down the Senate's work -- of preventing Congress from acting.

“Obamacare continues to collapse,” McConnell said. “Republicans are working to implement better ideas. Democrats are still trying to prevent Congress from acting.”

Schumer said his party’s actions were “merely the first steps we’re prepared to take in order to shine a light on this shameful Trumpcare bill.”

Senate Republicans have been racing to draft the bill since May when the House narrowly passed its version. Both chambers would have to agree on the language in order for the repeal measure to become law.

“When President Trump said that the House bill was mean he was not kidding around,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-RI, said in a speech from the Senate floor Monday night. “And if you think the one on the Senate side is gonna be any better there's one little phrase I'd like to bring to your attention. We're not stupid.”

Democrats, who oppose the bill but lack the necessary votes to block it, have vowed to block GOP procedural requests in an attempt to increase transparency in the drafting process. They have also tried to force the bill into committee and delay a potential vote.

Democrats also noted that before the ACA was passed, the bill’s text had been public for weeks, and it had seen at least 100 Senate deliberations, while the current bill hasn't seen any.

McConnell told President Donald Trump earlier this month that a vote on the bill could come before Independence Day, but Senate leaders have held back from divulging details about the bill.

However, Sen. Ron Johnson, R-WI, a vocal critic of the Affordable Care Act, said last week that his party would need more time to pass a viable replacement for Obamacare.

“We need enough time to really fully understand it. It's going to take time,” Johnson told reporters last week. “This is complex. I really don’t want to see us vote before the July 4th break. I think it'd be too soon.”

ABC News' Chad Murray contributed to this report.

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