Senate Dems Plot Aggressive Strategy To Fight Health Care Repeal

January 21, 2011 4:17 a.m.

Senate Democrats might not let Republicans’ health care repeal efforts die quietly after all.

A top Democratic aide tells me that leadership staffers are considering ways to make Republicans take tough votes on popular elements of the bill, as Republicans figure out if and how they’ll force a vote on full repeal.

Nothing’s been finalized, including precisely how they’d go about it. But the point would be to turn a global health care repeal push into something more piecemeal — should seniors pay back their $250 doughnut hole check? Should children with pre-existing conditions be stripped of insurance?“Senior staff are giving serious consideration to the strategy of forcing Republicans to take tough votes on extremely popular elements of the health care law, including the doughnut hole provision, as well as pre-existing conditions,” the aide said.

That’s not what you might expect given recent developments. After the House passed its repeal bill, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell vowed to force a vote on it. “The Democratic leadership in the Senate doesn’t want to vote on this bill. But I assure you, we will,” he said.

Jon Summers, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, responded with an amusing, one-word statement to reporters: “Unlikely.”

But even Democrats acknowledge McConnell can use a variety of Senate procedural tools — some obscure, some common — to force that vote. Given that reality, Dems are signaling they won’t accept that passively.

That could mean forcing votes on repealing popular provisions, or it could mean forcing votes on exempting popular provisions from a more global repeal push. But at the very least, it seems, they won’t be caught flatfooted.

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