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Howard writes: "Simply trying to resurrect Congressional courtesy might be enough to let Democratic lawmakers sleep well at night. But for their constituents - especially those who lack the cushion of government health coverage - there are far more urgent matters that can cause insomnia."

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, joined by, from left, Senator Chris Coons, D-DE, Senator Brian Schatz, D-HI, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, speaks about the health overhaul following a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol in Washington. (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-NY, joined by, from left, Senator Chris Coons, D-DE, Senator Brian Schatz, D-HI, and Senator Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, speaks about the health overhaul following a closed-door strategy session at the Capitol in Washington. (photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

The Democrats' Secret Weapon Against the GOP Health Care Bill - and Why We Must Force Them to Use It

By Miles Howard, WBUR

27 June 17


ack in May, when House Republicans passed a giant tax cut for the wealthy and called it the American Health Care Act of 2017, the American people responded with rage, and rightly so.

The bill was written and passed with barely any input from citizens, Democrats or even the Congressional Budget Office. Its worst consequences -- astronomical health premium hikes, the return of pre-existing condition discrimination and lifetime limits, deep Medicaid cuts — would kill more Americans (far more) than the 9/11 terror attacks.

Any assurances that the more “responsible” Senate Republicans would rewrite and soften the odious bill before it went to the floor for a vote were swiftly torpedoed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. After assembling an all-male, all-Republican working group, McConnell took the still-hot AHCA behind closed doors and barred nearly anyone else from looking at it.

And now, Senate Republicans have released a draft version of the AHCA, maintaining much of the House bill with modest changes to financial assistance for those in the lower income bracket and deeper cuts to Medicaid.

Going forward, as McConnell teases a pre-July 4th Senate vote for the AHCA, we find ourselves at a perilous crossroads with no precedent in U.S. history. The Republican Party, in full control of our government, has rejected any measure of bipartisan discourse over a piece of legislation with life-or-death implications for millions.

There is only one ethical and effective way for the Democratic Party to respond to McConnell’s reprehensible politics and protect the lives of its constituents and all Americans threatened by the AHCA. The Democrats must obstruct all Senate activity concerning the AHCA, grinding the chamber to a halt until the Republicans agree to public hearings on the bill. Not only is this the right thing to do, but thanks to the Indivisible group — an activist organization started by former Congressional aides — there is now a clear instruction manual for doing this.

To pass the AHCA swiftly, the Republican Party has utilized a procedure called “Budget Reconciliation.” This offers them the advantage of being able to pass the AHCA with only 51 votes instead of the 60 that most bills require. But there’s a catch. In return for lowering the vote threshold, the Republicans must allow Democrats to file amendments to the bill. And here’s the best part: there is no limit to how many amendments can be filed. This is how the Democrats can cause chaos and shut down the AHCA proceedings — file hundreds, even thousands of amendments, grind the Senate to a halt and force the Republicans to allow the public a glimpse at what McConnell and his team have been brewing in the shadows.

It sounds simple enough, but ironically, the greatest obstacle to making this happen is the modern Democratic Party mindset itself. Since 2008, when McConnell infamously declared that the Republican Party’s governing mission would be denying President Obama a second term, the Democrats have positioned themselves as reasonable bipartisan peacemakers. Obama himself set the example, offering olive branch after olive branch to an increasingly immovable Republican Party. It began as a noble gesture, but as the Republicans hardened, the Democrats’ obsession with bipartisanship became exasperating. It begged a salient question: if the Republicans won’t compromise, what do the Democrats gain by arriving at the bargaining table in an already-compromised position?

Obama finally took the hint and spent the last two years of his second term swinging for the fences on issues such as environmental protection, business regulation and a higher minimum wage. But things took a depressing turn during the 2016 election cycle, when Hillary Clinton and the Democratic leadership waged a campaign aimed at courting moderate Republicans instead of firing up liberals and leftists. It was a relapse, a return to the Democrats’ old ways of “going high” when the other side fought dirty, and it backfired spectacularly. Even today, with the Democratic Party on life support and the Republican Party striving to shut down any semblance of Congressional dialogue on the AHCA, the Democrats’ self-defeating compulsion to play nice, “get things done” and worship at the altar of bipartisanship might not be exhausted yet.

While most Democratic senators have taken to the airwaves, Facebook, and Twitter to protest McConnell’s AHCA secrecy, none have suggested holding the bill ransom with amendment filings. The optimistic way to look at this is to hope that the Democrats have a hardball tucked up their sleeve. But realistically, the Democrats will likely have to be pushed into this legislative street fight by their constituents. Many will probably push back against the idea of obstructing the AHCA proceedings because it’s “beneath” Senate decorum — something the Democrats like to congratulate themselves for protecting even as Republicans pulverize it.

Simply trying to resurrect Congressional courtesy might be enough to let Democratic lawmakers sleep well at night. But for their constituents — especially those who lack the cushion of government health coverage — there are far more urgent matters that can cause insomnia. We’ll sleep better when enough Democratic Senators wake up. your social media marketing partner


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+103 # Moxa 2017-06-23 12:37
Democratic tactics are not the result of being "nicer" but of having the same corporate donors as the Republicans. It is not the Republicans they are concerned about but the big money they are so afraid to lose. It is the CORRUPTION of the Democrats--not their Senatorial etiquette--that keeps them from doing the people's work.
-6 # Caliban 2017-06-25 10:33
This is an absurd generalization offered without ONE shred of evidence, Moxa.
+54 # Wise woman 2017-06-23 16:13
Everyone needs to keep calling their democratic representatives if they have any. Playing nice with republicans has to stop and stop right now in this time and place in history. If the don't, I suspect the party will self implode.
+8 # jsluka 2017-06-23 17:27
Not a snowball's chance in hell of the useless Dumbocrats doing this. Just sayin'.
+49 # Emmanuel Goldstein 2017-06-23 18:01
An important, informative piece! (Why am I, a news junkie, just now hearing about this potential tactic for the first time??)

The author makes a perfect case for Democratic obstructionism. But we all know it will never happen. Today's Democratic politicians are too corrupted, too much part of the Establishment, to raise the necessary ruckus. As a result, millions and millions of Americans will go without healthcare, a human right. Many will even die.

If this situation isn't enough to send Americans out into the streets in protest, there is no longer any hope for this once-great nation. The U.S. is rapidly becoming the first First World banana republic.
+3 # economagic 2017-06-23 20:44
See the comment by 47scooter below, and mine farther down the page.
+14 # vt143 2017-06-23 18:06
We are screwed. The Dems will NEVER do something as forceful as that. Bump, bump, bump. Down the funny stairs. (Thank you Richard Farina, you never knew how right you were).
+30 # 47scooter 2017-06-23 18:24
The link I received from Indivisible yesterday fills in the amendment form with the voter's name - check it out at

If hundreds of thousands of us file our individual amendments through our senators, the Republicans will have to agree to public hearings on the bill.
+2 # economagic 2017-06-23 20:48
Thanks for that tip. See my comment below.
+6 # RNLDaWy 2017-06-23 18:25
The Dems are not good at explaining anything. Let the bad plan get passed as it will anyway or some maybe lesser bad but worse than what's there now .. then at least in the mid terms they would have something of substance to vote on .. however .. the changes won't take place right away so the general electorate won't know until it goes into action .. delayed to not near election cycles .. it's all a dirty game .. I say . the Dems if they were a united party and cared at all about who they represent (the don't) should disavow their government healthcare plans making the Republicans take part in the plan they pass .. pass it you get that plan and we all own it .. hehehe .. but that would never happen ..
+24 # LionMousePudding 2017-06-23 18:37
I don't think they will. It's too easy to sit back, watch the people get screwed, say oh gosh that's too bad. Once 2020 rolls around and millions of lives have been ruined, Democrats will stir from their torpor and say "vote for us. We aren't Trump and we wouldn't have done that."

The Democrats simply don't care. They are using as an excuse an infatuation with Russia. They have no interest in their role as obstructing damage. Just as it was to the Republicans' advantage not to let Obama do any good; it is now to the Democrats' advantage not to stop the Republicans from doing evil.

It's all about getting elected.

And they're even wrong. They lost this election because 'we're not Trump' doesn't work. But they refuse to learn that lesson and just tell themselves they're just awesome but the Russians stole the election.

I'm feeling very pessimistic.
+6 # economagic 2017-06-23 20:41
Courage, Sister! With Great danger crisis also brings great opportunity.
+31 # Adoregon 2017-06-23 18:40
Vote the money junkies out; vote the People's Party in. Prepare for a new party.
+19 # economagic 2017-06-23 19:50
Leaving aside the dubious intentions and ethics of the DNC, there is a valid question of whether anyone in the Democratic leadership -- especially those in Congress -- actually gives a hoot about winning elections OR serving their country in any way other than enriching the military-prison -police-educati on-insurance-et c.-industrial complex. Or at least the question is valid for anyone not already convinced that said leaders do NOT give a hoot about anything but that, if indeed such persons exist.

But of course all of us in the Left Wing Echo Chamber already know all of that. If you are NOT among the people who have given up COMPLETELY (and if you have, do you have all of your "prepper"gear in place?), go to

Read carefully and follow the instructions. In order for a bill to pass with only 51 votes, all proposed amendments have to be heard and voted on. This is a delaying tactic, and the Indivisible team expect that at the end of the process the Republican leadership will replace the bill that has just been debated with the "real" bill and attempt to ram it through without debate. But in the meantime they are soliciting amendments from the public and funneling them to staff of Senators willing to introduce them by the thousands. Every day we can delay is another opportunity to get your uncle with the tinfoil hat to actually READ the bill!

BTW, I'm reading that it is now the "Better Care Reconciliation Act."
+5 # economagic 2017-06-23 19:55
Also, with ten Republican Senators one or two of whom might cave. Unfortunately they do not include the three or four Democrats who might cave, but their names are not hard to find, starting with Joe Manchin and (I believe) Mark Warner.
+9 # economagic 2017-06-23 21:05
Ms. Clinton has been quoted as saying that if Republicans pass their Trumpdon'tcare bill (MY line, not hers) "they're the death party."

Seriously now. Let's talk about "death panels" -- LOUDLY.
+11 # Anonymot 2017-06-24 10:54
Oh, Mrs. Clinton says... If that same Mrs. Clinton had not backstabbed her rival Sanders, we'd have single payer by now. Of course, I don't blame the CIA for putting her up. She was putty for them while Sanders was a wild card.

I think we need to move on and just let her increase her bank account. Nothing will fix this disaster but a new, new political party if she hasn't totally destroyed any possible forward movement.
+14 # Texas Aggie 2017-06-23 21:41
If the DNC doesn't want to become completely irrelevant and out of a job because their corporation went out of business, they need to listen to this. It would be so easy to put together a bunch of amendments or even a couple that transform this drumpfcare monstrosity into a single payer or Medicare for all bill.
+14 # mashiguo 2017-06-24 00:06
The democrat party is the doormat for the republican party.
Those of you still blind enough to expect something from them should prepare to have republicans wipe their filth all over you.

When you wake up and abandon the democrat party for a new party you might get something you want.
As it is, all they have to offer is continued thrall to the corporatized health care industry.
+3 # Caliban 2017-06-25 10:36
So, what is your suggestion for improving the situation, #mashiguo?
+5 # elkingo 2017-06-24 12:15
These utter scumbags would institute Passive Genocide, as economically determined. They are "culling the herd" - of the old, the disabled and the poor - which is pursuant to Calvinist capitalism - the mentality still in sway, and then some. In the name of humanity, they must be stopped.
+8 # elkingo 2017-06-24 13:10
Dada style amendments might help. No kidding.
How about a proviso to the bill that senators be excluded from any coverage, or all registered Republicans, or those making over $250,000 per year? Or, that signatories to the bill would have to do 2 days a week of community service wiping noses in old folk's homes?
+10 # Elroys 2017-06-24 13:40
The writer states this health / diseased bill will kill more people than the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the WTC. True - but he forgets the true magnitude - it will like kill 10 times that number - EVERY SINGLE YEAR - NOT a one time event. Let's not forget about the financial ruin of millions of hard working families - one illness, one child born with a terrible disease, one accident away from ruin.
Dealing with Republicans today is not a game of nice any more - they are working to kill anything Barak Obama. This is about erasing any legacy of our first black president, who was far more effective, compassionate and so much smarter than any recent Repub president. Barak and Michelle Obama have real class. McConnell - none.
These disgusting human beings called Republicans (especially those in our Senate and House who vote for this diseased bill) are no different than those we label terrorists - think ISIS, Al Qaeda - these are pikers compared to the death and devastation that will rain down on tens of millions of American families and lives. Cutting off heads is a terrible and brutal thing. Snuffing out the lives of those we are supposed to care about, slowly and painfully, is cruel.and brutal The ever-present worry and concern for those additional 23 million people thrown out of medical care is completely unnecessary and is truly sick - just so that those with comfort and wealth can have more. Think ISIS running loose in the U.S. Senate - that is today's reality.

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