On Monday evening as Democratic senators lined up to speak on the Senate floor against the plan by Senate Republicans to immediately repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement plan, Ohio’s twice-elected but still junior Senator Rob Portman broke ranks and joined four other so-called “moderate” Republicans who asked to slow the process down until March.
In addition to Sen. Portman, Bloomberg news reports that Bob Corker of Tennessee, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska offered an amendment Monday to the budget resolution that would extend the target date for the committees to write an Obamacare repeal bill from Jan. 27 to March 3.
These five GOP senators represent a real division among Majority Republicans who wanted to have an ACA repeal bill on Donald Trump’s desk shortly after he’s sworn-in on Jan. 20. The breakaway group is great news for Minority Democrats and their leader New York Sen. Chuck Schumer who want to establish a national movement to defend the controversial bill that represents the key legacy of out-going President Barack Obama.
Sens. Cassidy and Collins were already signaling their discomfort with Majority Leader, Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell, to rush forward. Their desire to delay repeal of Obamacare tax hikes, the senators said, is to have have revenue to pay for a replacement plan once they have one.
“This amendment will ensure that we move forward with a smart, responsible plan to replace the law as quickly as possible,” Sen. Portman said, Bloomberg reported. Sen. Murkowski said it’s simply “common sense” that repeal and replace happen simultaneously.
Dems Start National Movement To Defend ACA
In a national conference call broadcast live from the Senate Monday evening, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Schumer conducted a rally by phone to call for action to defend the ACA. “We can win this if Democrats stand united, and protest where ever people live,” Warren said, adding that the “talk-a-thon” on the Senate floor, which started Monday at 4 pm, marks the opening fight to defend the ACA.
The national movement the two senators want to start is focused on defeating Donald Trump and his GOP establishment lawmakers by calling for constant public action, especially at the local level when public officials are back in their districts. They want Trump voters to understand that they’ve been deceived by a candidate and a campaign that will actually betray them by siding with big corporations over average working people. The message being delivered is that a “grassroots calvary” is ready to fight in the trenches, which includes flooding congressional phone lines, bringing forth stories that contrast Democrats’ desire to build on the ACA instead of repeal it as Republicans promise to do. They hope the public will notice and hold Republicans accountable.
Sen. Warren, who’s on the list of potential Democratic 2020 presidential candidates, said Republicans who complained about Obama’s healthcare plan through his two terms now want to “rip health insurance out of the hands of millions.” Doing that, she said, will “massively raise costs” and create chaos for hospitals, clinics and insurance companies. She mocked Republicans who are “trying to convince each other everything will be fine if they repeal and run.” Sen. Portman’s call for delay shows Sen. Warren has hit a nerve. Republicans rushing forward with no plan in hand, she said, is not governing or leadership but just reckless. “I can’t think of a bigger fight than this one.”
On the call coordinated by the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Sen. Schumer took pleasure in how the GOP is already splintering even though they have no plan. Schumer identified the problem as one based on GOP political ideology that abhors government involvement. The Democrats’ new Majority Leader who said he likes the public option, also said Republicans can’t stand it that Democrats—from Joe Manchin in West Virginia to Bernie Sanders in Vermont—are totally united. He emphasized the terrible toll repeal will take on rural hospitals, who often times represent an area’s largest employer. “They’re flummoxed and we are united,” Sen. Schumer said, adding that “people are aroused…and momentum is on our side” only a few months after many had lost hope with the election of Trump over Hillary Clinton
Defeating Republicans is very real, he said, noting that Sens. Murkowski and Collins could be further swayed to vote no if Planned Parenthood funding is yanked, as Republican leaders in the Senate and House want to do. “Our job as Democrats is not to help them undo it,” he said, adding, “You break it you own it.” He vowed to not let the GOP “push us around,” adding that the divisions are gratifying.
Defense For ACA
With focused actions, including Facebook post, Tweets and calls to congressman, Sen. Schumer said their efforts to defend “will spread like a contagion.” “We can defeat them even though we’re not in the majority,” he crowed.
The Democrats’ resistance plan includes both defending the ACA and going on offense against the Trump White House and Capitol Hill Republicans. Activists say to expect Trump and allies to throw out a slew of “crazy ideas,” so many that each can’t be rebutted. What’s needed, they say, is a unified theme to rebut anything tossed out to distract from the GOP’s lack of plans. Democrats want to show there is a market-based solution that might well be a public option, an idea Republicans recoil at. Messaging from Washington needs to be translated to local levels, which includes local protests at local lawmakers’ offices and seeking out Trump voters who are willing to say “This is not what I voted for.”
Changing the direction of the wind in Washington is about shifting the tide at the local level, call organizers said, reminding the thousands listening in that even though Trump won the Electoral College, he lost the popular vote by nearly three million votes, so he doesn’t have a mandate.
Their plan to resist is centered on three factors: Repeal without replacing is very unpopular; GOP division on replacement is real, and Donald rump is a wild card who will throw Republicans under the bus. They note that because Donald Trump “will do what he can to stay popular,” he could be their secret weapon. Key ingredients in the Democrats’ recipe is jamming phone lines with calls, generating local press coverage, and harnessing social media. Facts don’t beat ideology, they said, but real stories do, since they reinforce doubts GOP senators like Collins or Murkowski already have. These senators especially could be lured to vote with Democrats if funding for Planned Parenthood is ripped away as about 2.5 million women will lose their primary source of healthcare.
As many as 500 resist-Trump meetings are scheduled for this coming Sunday, PCCC call organizers said. Under the banner of “Our First Stand,” engaged Democrats see this as a first wave of coordinated, inside-outside grassroots brought forward by a new Senate leadership team.