It’s time to call your senators

No fool, Mitch McConnell, I suspect, is using the Russia hearings to pass the Senate’s version of the House bill to limit the number of the poor who can get health are, i.e. the health care version of stripping names from voter rolls. While I’ll never stop overestimating Democratic parliamentary skills, it looks at least as if several Senate members of the minority are on to his game and are toying with a counter-strategy:

If Republicans bring their Obamacare repeal bill to the floor using a Senate procedure called reconciliation, Democrats cannot filibuster the legislation. Liberal activists are pressing leaders to halt all Senate business in protest of the Republican repeal efforts, but that idea is not under consideration, senators said.

But Democrats do have vote-a-rama — a Senate procedure in which Democrats can force votes on an unlimited number of amendments. In theory, they can force votes for as many hours or days as they have amendments to offer, as long as senators are willing to vote every 15 minutes.

“There are a lot of Americans who I think aren’t as focused on this bill as they should be,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), pointing to all the attention on the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and the Russia investigation. “Outside the Capitol, it’s basically sunk off the radar screen. The advantage of having a several-day-long vote-a-rama, it would not just force some debate on amendments, it would also elevate the visibility of it.”

A counter-strategy under discussion would be to offer no amendments at all. The theory, which some House Democrats pushed in that chamber, is to make the case that no amendment would make the repeal bill better.

To the surprise of my readers, I oppose gumming up the Senate. My suspicion that not much actual work gets done in this hyperpartisan era aside, stopping the American Health Care Act is not like filibustering the Neil Gorsuch nomination. Republicans are sent to the Hill to lower taxes on the rich and if they’re senators to vote on filling the judiciary with like-minded folks; no Republican was going to oppose the Gorsuch nomination, therefore Dems had no choice but to filibuster.

Stopping the Senate version of the House ACHA bill is different. Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska have signaled their unease. Nab one more senator in a swing state and the ACHA’s prospects look grimmer. Call friends in those states. Put pressure on these senators. Remind their offices that this bill will kick you off health care.

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