Schumer, Democrats Play Hardball to Delay Republican Health Care Bill

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New York Sen. Chuck Schumer said Monday that Democrats are willing to slow down Senate work as Republicans write a health care bill behind closed doors.

Democrats want to bring work in the Senate to a halt — a last-ditch effort to oppose a health care bill Republicans are writing behind closed doors.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday that Democrats will "withhold consent," a tactic that could force Republicans to wait days in between votes on bills and amendments. Senators normally agree to skip those waiting periods, but just one member of the chamber can object and slow Senate work to a crawl.

Schumer, the senior senator from New York, says the unusual move is necessary because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to vote on the Senate version to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act in the next two weeks.

The public, and most Senators, don’t know what’s in the bill. And no hearings are planned.

“This radical departure from normal procedure, on a bill of such consequence," Schumer said on the Senate floor, "leaves the Senate minority little choice but to depart from normal procedure as well."

Liberal activists have been urging Schumer and other Senate Democrats to adopt the last-ditch strategy for weeks. Schumer initially refused, but Senate Democrats said they've grown more frustrated as Republicans have continued to keep details of their bill secret.

"The time calls for hardball procedural maneuvers, and withholding consent is a great step in the right direction," said Ezra Levin, co-executive director of Indivisible, which advises more than 5,800 anti-Trump groups across the country. "We've been calling on Senate Democrats to start showing this is as big a deal as it is." 

McConnell has defended the Republicans' process, but some GOP Senators, such as Alaska's Lisa Murkowski, have complained about the secrecy.

Democrats hope they can delay the vote on the bill until after the week-long July 4th break and give themselves more time to build opposition against the Republican plan.