protest Senate Republican healthcare secrecy
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[June 20, 2017] By
(Reuters) - U.S. Democrats took to the Senate floor on Monday to throw a
spotlight on behind-the-scenes efforts by the Republican majority to
repeal former President Barack Obama's healthcare law, known as
In a series of floor motions, inquiries and lengthy speeches,
Democrats criticized the closed-door meetings that Republicans have
been holding to craft a replacement for Obamacare, formally known as
the Affordable Care Act. They called for open committee hearings and
more time to consider the bill before a Senate vote, which
Republicans say could come in the next two weeks, although a draft
bill has yet to emerge publicly.
Lacking the votes to derail or change the Republican process, the
maneuvers by the Democratic minority seemed more aimed at
highlighting Republican efforts on a controversial issue. Polls have
said that a majority of Americans disapprove of the Obamacare
replacement that has passed the House of Representatives and that
Senate Republicans are now considering.
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said that the closed-door
Republican meetings on healthcare amounted to "the most glaring
departure from normal legislative procedure that I have ever seen."
"Republicans are writing their healthcare bill under the cover of
darkness because they are ashamed of it," Schumer charged. The
resulting legislation would likely throw millions out of health
insurance, he said, while granting "a big fat tax break for the
wealthiest among us."
Senators are not obligated to hold meetings in the open, but
Democrats pointed out that there were lengthy committee meetings and
many days of floor debate on Obamacare before it passed in 2010.
Several Democrats moved for the healthcare legislation to be
referred to Senate committees for hearings, but Senate Majority
Leader Mitch McConnell refused.
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McConnell said all Republican senators
have been involved to some degree in healthcare meetings and that
Democrats would have a chance to amend the legislation they produce,
once it is brought to the Senate floor.
"We're going to have a meeting on the Senate floor, all hundred of
us, with an unlimited amendment process," McConnell said. "So there
will be no failure of opportunity."
Senate Republican leaders would like a vote on healthcare
legislation in July, before the July 4 recess if possible. But
Republicans have struggled to coalesce around a bill, with moderates
and conservatives pushing in different directions.
Senate Republicans also face pressure from the right. In the House,
conservatives have written to McConnell to express concern about
reports that say the Senate may water down the House bill.
(Reporting by Susan Cornwell;
Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler)
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