Senate Democrats are taking their ball and going home in the looming health care vote-a-rama — until Republicans finally cough up their actual Obamacare repeal plan.
Fed up with the GOP’s constant vacillations over how to dismantle Obamacare, Democrats say they will hold back on offering any more amendments in the health care floor fight until Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) shows what plan the GOP will ultimately coalesce around.
“Democrats are not going to participate in this one-sided and broken process,” announced Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) Wednesday evening. “Once the majority leader shows his hand, reveals what his bill will actually be, Democrats will use the opportunity to try and amend the bill.”
The latest iteration of the GOP plan gaining some traction is the so-called "skinny repeal" plan, a bare-bones proposal that would eliminate Obamacare’s individual and employer mandates while getting rid of the law’s medical device tax. Some Republicans have embraced the strategy — particularly as a way to push a legislative product through to final negotiations with the House — but still several key centrists and conservatives say they’re undecided on whether to back the proposal.
Two other Obamacare repeal plans from the GOP have already crashed and burned in test votes on the floor.
One was a straight repeal of the 2010 health care law that mirrored a measure that the Senate passed in 2015 but was vetoed by President Barack Obama. The other was a version of the Senate GOP’s Obamacare replacement plan with two sweeteners added to placate both the conservative flank and the moderate wing.
It’s not that Democrats aren’t ready to go for a vote-a-rama — set to begin sometime Thursday — with an arsenal of amendments. They’ve already been drafting dozens of proposals, with senators such as Chris Murphy of Connecticut and Jeff Merkley of Oregon having prepped more than 100 amendments each.
But Democratic senators say they see no point in offering up their proposals if they’re amending what they say is a shell of a health care bill.
“This is a joke and we’re not going to participate anymore,” said Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). “It’s a sham. Everything has been done in secrecy and now we’re being asked to debate and they’re calling it a robust amendment process when we’re not even amending the bill they [want to pass]. So we’re done.”
"We want to know what bill we’re amending," added Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.). "We don’t know what’s in the bill, we don’t have a bill. So how can you amend that?"
Jennifer Haberkorn and John Bresnahan contributed to this report.