Senate Dems seize on CBO to slam GOP

Senate Democrats on Wednesday seized on a new projection that 23 million more Americans would be uninsured under the House GOP’s Obamacare repeal to hammer the Republican senators now crafting their own plan.

Led by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Democrats staged a fiery press conference less than 45 minutes after the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office released its report on the House-passed Obamacare repeal. Schumer argued that Senate Republicans are making a mistake similar to their House counterparts’ hasty passage of a bill before its CBO score emerged.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is crafting his Obamacare repeal plan with “no hearings, no amendments,” Schumer told reporters, “because they’ll be embarrassed by the similar product they’ll come out with.”

Senate Republicans are “stuck, they’re just stuck,” Schumer said. McConnell acknowledged earlier Wednesday that “I don’t know” yet how his conference can craft an Obamacare repeal that can pass with 50 Republican votes.

Senate Democrats have held daily events hitting the House bill for weeks. But after a chaotic news cycle dominated by the investigation into President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, the party sought to return the focus to health care.

“Call it whatever you want, but please do not call this bill a health care bill,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a member of Democratic leadership, told reporters. “This is legislation that provides over $200 billion in tax breaks to the wealthiest 2 percent.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) preemptively rebutted any attempt by Senate Republicans to argue that their Obamacare repeal plan, presently spearheaded by a 13-member all-male working group, would look different from the House version that the CBO analyzed.

“Let me guarantee you that the Senate Republicans are using the House bill as a foundation for the product that they are constructing,” Murphy told reporters. “The CBO score is important and relevant because the Senate product, if it ever emerges from these secret meetings, will simply be a variant of the House bill.”

McConnell also gave an early rebuttal to Democrats’ anticipated alarm at the CBO projection before its release. The Kentucky Republican said in a floor speech Wednesday that "instead of continuing to hold press conferences in what ultimately can only be described as a defense of the Obamacare status quo, I’d ask our Democratic colleagues to come to terms with the situation Americans are facing" under the existing law.

Sanders and Schumer also suggested that the House-passed bill might face difficulty complying with budget rules that dictate the amount of savings it must achieve in order to be taken up under reconciliation, the powerful procedural tool that would allow Obamacare repeal to avoid a Democratic filibuster in the Senate.

The savings target must be met by both committees whose jurisdiction the health care bill falls under; if it falls short, the House would have to modify the bill and hold another, potentially difficult, vote on it.

"We don’t know yet, but there’s a real possibility that it doesn’t meet reconciliation [requirements]," Schumer said.

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