Hello! My name is _______, and I am a constituent of Senator Harris'/Feinstein's in ____________, California. I'm calling to ask the senator to pull out all the stops, and to derail Republicans' plans for railroading their healthcare bill through to a vote. I'd like the senator to withhold her consent on all Senate business -- including obstructing amendments, placing holds on nominations, and objecting to all unanimous consent requests -- until we have hearings and a complete CBO score. I'd also like her to join other Democrats in being ready to offer hundreds or even thousands of amendments to the Trumpcare bill, straight into the July 4 recess or longer, holding the floor as long as it takes to guarantee that we'll be able to read the bill, see a CBO score, and get a committee hearing before a vote. Democrats need to slow the process down using every tool available, and do everything possible to stop this bill -- no matter what it takes. Thank you!
Republicans continue to construct their version of an Affordable Care Act "repeal and replace" bill in secret, behind closed doors, in preparation for bringing the bill straight to the Senate floor over the next two weeks. Currently, no hearings are planned before a vote -- despite Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's complaints back in 2010 that Democrats were not holding enough hearings on the ACA (more than 150 were held). McConnell desperately wants a vote before the July 4 recess, because otherwise the limits imposed by the Senate calendar may leave Republicans unable to use the reconciliation process to pass a final bill without Democratic votes. The Senate bill likely will contain few changes from the House bill that would take access to health coverage away from 23 million Americans.
With their power to force a hearing curtailed by their minority status, Democrats are left with few options. However, they can withhold consent, slowing the Senate down to a crawl and focusing attention on their chosen issues by refusing to acquiesce on the majority's desire to get business done. Republicans will want to push Trumpcare to a vote by shortening time for debates, expediting consideration of amendments, and scheduling committees. Such shortcuts are usually accepted as courtesies -- but then, so are committee hearings and "regular order," which Republicans are undermining in their haste to pass a bill on schedule.
Democrats also can filibuster by amendment. Because Republicans decided to proceed with Trumpcare via reconciliation (so they need only 51 votes, rather than 60, to pass it), they are required to allow consideration of an unlimited number of amendments to the bill. Any senator can file as many amendments as she chooses; the amendments are then called to the Senate floor during a session popularly referred to as “vote-a-rama.” By offering literally thousands of amendments, Democratic senators could delay the final bill indefinitely, until Republicans agree to have public hearings.
Such measures are highly unusual and carry considerable risk, in terms of public perception as well as further poisoning the Senate's already dysfunctional interparty ecosystem. But this is no ordinary time, and Republicans have already dismantled regular Senate order on their way to dismantling the nation's healthcare system. It's time for Democratic senators to pull out all the stops.