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Senate Dems’ talkathon to decry GOP’s secret Trumpcare talks

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 19, 2017) — Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) is spearheading a floor filibuster tonight to protest Senate Republicans’ continuing secret negotiations of their version of Trumpcare to repeal the Affordable Care Act, slash Medicaid funding, and pass major tax cuts targeted to wealthy Americans. Senate Democrats are planning to hold their late-night talkathon on the Senate floor until at least midnight protesting the GOP plan to vote on the bill without any public hearings or opportunity for the 48 Democrats to offer any amendments.

Jeff Johnson, President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, praised the Democratic effort to call attention to this undemocratic procedure and to demand that the public have the freedom to see proposed legislation that so directly impacts their families’ well-being:

“I want to send a huge shout-out to Senators Bernie Sanders, Chuck Schumer, and Patty Murray for holding the Senate floor in protest of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s secret negotiations over health care. Health care is a human right and not a product to be bargained away in backroom deals. Thank you, Democrats, for being the conscience of America and standing with the majority of Americans who want to improve the Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, and Medicare. Tell you what, you keep holding the Senate floor for as long as it takes to improve our health care system, and we will send the pizza.”

Senate Republicans’ secret negotiations come after House Republicans rushed through their version of Trumpcare without waiting for the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Offices’ analysis of its impact. After it narrowly passed, 217-213, the CBO reported that the bill would result in 23 million Americans losing health insurance coverage over the next decade, steep premium increases for older people and people with pre-existing conditions, and $834 billion in Medicaid cuts to finance $664 billion in tax cuts for corporations and high earners. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-5th) was the only Washington representative from either party who voted “yes” on the bill.

Tonight’s late-night Senate speeches come as Democrats are being urged to slow progress in the Senate and “resist through procedure” by progressive advocacy groups. The Senate is entering a critical two-week stretch where Republicans had hoped to vote on their health care bill and then work on their “tax reform” and appropriations bills for 2018, which are far behind schedule with the fiscal year set to end on Sept. 30. That’s why McConnell is pushing for a vote on the secretly negotiated Senate GOP Trumpcare bill – with no public hearings and limited time for debate — before July 4.

The Hill reports today that this ambitious timeline is increasingly being seen as unrealistic, and the Republicans are now considering canceling their month-long August recess.

In the meantime, Senate Democrats today released a new letter to Senate Republican leaders, complete with a comprehensive list of all 31 potential rooms to hold a formal committee hearing, just in case the Republicans need help scheduling one on their new Trumpcare legislation. They are also reminding Republicans that the ACA was approved only after an extensive series of hearings and amendments:

In 2010, during the Affordable Care Act drafting, Republicans argued that the Senate could not rush a bill through that would impact one-sixth of the economy and millions of Americans. As part of a commitment to make health reform an open and transparent process, the Senate Finance Committee held more than 50 meetings on health reform and spent sight days marking up the legislation — the longest markup in 22 years. The Senate HELP Committee held more than 47 hearings, and roundtables and considered nearly 300 amendments during a 13-day markup. During the process, the Senate Finance Committee and Senate HELP Committee accepted 154 amendments either sponsored or cosponsored by sitting Republican Senators.

Additionally, both committees posted their legislation online for six days before the markup, allowing stakeholders and the public time to evaluate it before any vote was taken. When the bill was considered on the Senate floor, the Senate spent 25 consecutive days in session on health reform, the second-longest consecutive session in history. Fast forward seven years and the Senate GOP is refusing to release the bill so the public can see it, solicit any bipartisan support, or hold any hearings on the legislation.

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