Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer just wants the Senate to talk it out over health care.
In a new letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), the New York Democrat is asking all 100 senators to gather in the Old Senate Chamber next week to discuss health care — a tactic Democrats hope will pressure Republicans to drop their push to repeal Obamacare and instead work on fixes to the seven-year-old law.
“The U.S. Senate has long been considered the world’s greatest deliberative body and, as members of that body, we should each support open and robust debate,” Schumer wrote to McConnell on behalf of his 48-member caucus. “That is why we are dismayed at reports that there will be no public hearings on your proposed changes to the American health care system.”
The letter was obtained by POLITICO in advance of its release.
Senate Republicans have completely excluded Democrats from their Obamacare repeal effort, arguing that the minority party isn’t serious about repairing the Affordable Care Act.
But even some of their own members feel shut out of the process. In recent days, several rank-and-file Republicans — including Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin — have complained that the process is too secretive. Several members of the working group, which was originally 13 male senators but was expanded to other Republicans, said Thursday that they haven’t yet seen legislative text.
GOP leaders want to vote on a bill before the Fourth of July recess, but that timeline appears to be slipping. Republicans still have major policy differences over key provisions, such as how to bring down premiums, and the legislation needs to be scored by the Congressional Budget Office before the Senate can vote.
It seems unlikely McConnell will acquiesce to Schumer’s request, considering the majority leader has insisted that the GOP conference is not drafting its health care legislation in total secrecy.
“Nobody is hiding the ball here,” McConnell told reporters earlier this week. “You are free to ask anybody anything.”
The historic old Senate chamber — located across from McConnell’s suite of offices in the Capitol — has hosted past attempts by senators to de-escalate partisan fights, such as a battle four years ago over the so-called “nuclear option” on nominations.