It’s not just stalling for fun and games – Republicans blocking health care from moving forward using Senate procedure think if they can force Democrats to go home for the holidays without a vote, they might just kill the bill.
The reasoning is that August was bad for Democrats when they went back to their districts and faced angry voters. Now, as polls tip against them and there’s party infighting, it might be even worse.
TPMDC checked in with Republican sources and some Democrats who say lawmakers could face the cold shoulder at best or angry constituents reminiscent of the summer town halls at worst if they leave town without voting on the bill.
And the clock is ticking. Thanks to Senate rules, if they want to vote on the final bill by Christmas eve, leadership has just a few days to wrap it up.
Republican aides were reluctant to reveal their plans, but today was a bit of a preview as they slowed down the chamber’s actions by more than three hours.
Using parliamentary procedure to slow things down is exactly what the GOP is aiming for – a dual win of headline-grabbing theater and delay that throws a wrench into leadership’s timeline.“People like this bill less every single day. At some point, Democrats are going to listen to them,” said Don Stewart, a spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Not to be outdone, the Democrats painted the Republicans as obstructionists who are forcing U.S. troops to wait for new funding during the holiday season.
Political rhetoric aside, the delay is a real concern and the GOP is seizing on new polls suggesting support for health care has slipped.
As we have reported, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said President Obama is perfectly willing to sign the bill on the beach from Hawaiian vacation, but few on the health care team expect that to happen.
Especially since Democratic leaders in the other chamber don’t want to keep their members in town waiting for the Senate to pass its bill.
But going home may prove perilous.
Republicans had initially threatened to read the entire health care bill, but Stewart said that’s not an option since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid hasn’t presented his final version to members.
Beyond today, the GOP is likely to ask for cloture motions on every single possible level to slow the bill down. Their moves last week forced Reid to cancel a campaign fundraiser.
Sen. Mark Warner told TPMDC in an interview (more on that here) that Republican requests to “start over” are disingenuous. “That’s code for let’s kick the can down the road a decade,” he said.
The Senate broke the logjam today after losing about three hours of work time in total, and Republican aides say their party has the momentum while progressive Democrats are frustrated with leadership.
“The Democrats still can’t tell Americans what this bill will cost because it hasn’t been scored by CBO,” a GOP campaign source said. “So they are in a very dangerous political position right now.”
Follow our up-to-the-minute health care coverage here.
Ed. note: This post was edited from the original.