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Throw Sand in the Gears


Chuck Schumer is finally slowing the Senate to a halt in response to the TrumpCare bill.

“If Republicans won’t relent and debate their healthcare bill in the open for the American people to see, then they shouldn’t expect business as usual in the Senate,” said Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.).

Schumer said Republicans are “drafting this bill in secret because they’re ashamed of it, plain and simple.”

A senior Senate Democratic aide said that starting on Monday evening, Democrats will object to “all unanimous consent requests in the Senate,” though there could be a narrow exception for honorary resolutions.”

If Democrats stick to the tactics, they will be able to block any committees from meeting after the Senate has been in session for more than two hours.

Will be very interesting to see what happens here. Will it continue if the bill is forced through? How far will Democrats go? At what point will they start fretting about the norms of the Senate, as if they exist anymore?

Still, a good and necessary move.

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  • I eagerly await Mitch McConnell explaining how this is a treasonous dereliction of Senate rules that the Republicans would never, ever use. Just never. Ever.

    • Gwen

      The real fun starts when Ted Cruz starts whining like a baby.

      Which I guarantee will happen.

      • mds


      • Brett

        Oh yes. Cruz will hypocritically whine up a storm about this.

  • NonyNony

    I’m sure that McConnell will find a way to blow these rules up on the assumption that once Democrats have power again they’ll put them back into place.

    It’s interesting – 5 years ago I’d assume he would be making a good bet by doing this, but now? I’m not so sure. I think if he burns this bridge (by having the parliamentarian rule that this doesn’t work because “argle-bargle I say so”) then he should assume it’s burned for good.

    (Also your block-quote is off by a paragraph. I was surprised that The Hill would blatantly side against McConnell like that, but then realized it was a misplaced blockquote tag).

    • twbb

      “It’s interesting – 5 years ago I’d assume he would be making a good bet by doing this, but now? I’m not so sure. I think if he burns this bridge (by having the parliamentarian rule that this doesn’t work because “argle-bargle I say so”) then he should assume it’s burned for good.”

      “Fool me once, shame on you, fool me 25,325 times, shame on me I guess.”

  • Alex.S

    I’m not expecting attention to come from this, but I’ll be happy to be proven wrong. Sadly, it won’t do anything to slow down a secret bill that is being written outside of the Senate committees, and I don’t believe it will impact or slow down the actual voting.

    • I am glad they are trying it, because as I understand it, there is precious little else that Democratic senators can do right now.

      • jmauro

        And they’re getting tremendous pressure by their voters to do something. The first gambit on doing nothing went over like a lead balloon.

        The Democratic voters are pretty fed up with the stands on nothing can be done, even though they see the GOP stymieing progressive legislation for years. Much like the initial idea on not to filibuster the SCOTUS nomination because the fear that the filibuster might be available for the GOP to revoke in future.

        • SatanicPanic

          Will call my senators today to thank them

        • Alex.S

          Yep — the Republicans were able to actively oppose the Democrats’ legislation because it existed as legislation being written by a legislative body.

          The Democrats cannot actively oppose the Republicans legislation, because it is not being written as legislation by a legislative body.

          Activists are demanding opposition — and well, here’s a form of opposition. They are then demanding despite its disconnect from the legislation and a goal that is literally “We want attention”. The first gambit was trying to draw attention by traditional methods.

        • nemdam

          But they actually did use the filibuster.

          And Republicans couldn’t stop Democrats until after 2010 when they had the votes. If Democrats controlled one of the chambers, nothing would get through.

          I’ve come to accept that some people just assume Democrats never fight or always cave regardless of the facts when this is simply not true.

          (And please don’t read into this that Democrats are perfect and never make mistakes.)

          • farin

            Sorry, you’ve gotta pick one or the other: Democrats are chronically useless quitters or you’re an unthinking establishment shill. It’s like you never even read Phil Perspective’s comments!

        • ForkyMcSpoon

          I guess. But a question is how much credit Democrats will get for trying to use procedural maneuvers if McConnell decides to simply eliminate those maneuvers.

          Obviously the Democrats were unwilling to adopt that kind of procedural radicalism in 2009-10. And certainly I will criticize them for that. Whoever kept them from getting 51 votes to abolish or at least weaken the filibuster in 2009-10 deserves criticism. But there’s nothing they can do about it now.

    • cleek

      they’re doing the only thing they can: they’re making the press talk about it.

      • Steve LaBonne

        Bingo. That’s the point.

    • timb

      Withholding unanimous consent means the bill remains on the foot for x number of hours for debate BEFORE voting to consent. IF every bill is denied unanimous consent and amendments are proposed to every bill, then there no way for the Senate to start the healthcare bill prior to the recess. IF

  • humanoid.panda

    On the same topic, Brian Beutler makes a really good point:

    Rather than run draft legislation through an open committee process, Republicans have outsourced the entire deliberation to 13 male senators from 10 states. The Senate GOP advantage in small states is reflected in the working group, and then compounded by the fact that it includes both senators from Wyoming and Utah. The senators who have been looped into the process represent less than one quarter of the nation’s population. If you hail from either of the coasts, your interests are being safeguarded by zero of the senators endeavoring to overhaul the U.S. health care system.

    I was raked over the coals about my California secession becoming a real thing if things continue this way, and I think almost all the rakers made good points, but: in the long run, a polity in which tiny rural areas enjoy enormous power advantages AND party politics gets increasingly organized on a georgraphic basis AND the small rural areas decide that the large underrepresented areas should have even less power because cosmopolitan degeneracy will develop some serious cracks.

    • ExpatJK

      I am not advocating secession, but I think secession is certainly more likely* to occur in the future under the conditions you describe. Or, at least, interest in secession is likely to increase.

      *I would say at this point, it is starting from a baseline of very unlikely.

      • humanoid.panda

        Right. This is my argument all along. I am very skeptical of an actual secession crisis, but I think secessionism is going to become a political force in some western states.

        [I can see only two actual paths to secession:
        1. Trump escalating his war on Latinos to a point where public order starts to break down in California.
        2. The GOP somehow managing to convey an assembly of states, and liberal states/areas realizing the GOP intends to totally lock them out of power.

        • so-in-so

          Interesting if there were competing secession movements – coastal liberals wanting to escape the dystopic GOP control and Western “land rights” groups wanting to reclaim (and despoil) federal lands.

          • SatanicPanic

            Those people have so little power in California though.

            EDIT- the lands rights people

            • so-in-so

              I assumed the land rights people would be in the inland Western states, the anti-GOP control people in places like California and New York.

              • ExpatJK

                Yeah, I would see that as more of an issue in say Arizona. Although weren’t the Bundys in Oregon, a coastal state?

                • so-in-so

                  The bird sanctuary was in Oregon (and parts of Oregon, we are informed, are “rural” rather than “coastal” in politics), but they are from Nevada, and had the original standoff at their ranch in that state.

                • ExpatJK


                • SatanicPanic

                  FWIW I’ve always thought that if we left AZ and NV would come with us- we’re closer culturally than they are to other states. But this might just be wishful thinking.

                • Michael Cain

                  Responding to SatanicPanic…

                  Look at where California’s energy comes from: electricity and natural gas from all over the West. The CA legislature has instructed the organization that operates the intrastate grid to explore options to expand their sources even further, covering the entire Western Interconnect. The preliminary study says such an expansion will benefit CA considerably. Myself, I suspect that it will benefit most of the other western states as well.

                  CA is rich enough to offer a sufficiently attractive deal to the Western Interconnect states to get them all to leave.

          • Michael Cain

            Despoiling is becoming less and less popular in the interior West (eg, see Colorado College’s annual survey). The local-control groups are well aware of the change. In Oregon, and in parts of Utah, their push is to give counties control of the public lands, because they know that they’ll lose at the state level.

            The West has always been less rural by population than most people realize. In the 2010 census: (1) five of the twelve least-rural states were in the Census Bureau’s western region; and (2) the CB’s western region and northeastern region were equally non-rural, and both much less rural than the rest of the country.

        • ExpatJK

          Yeah, I don’t see there being a crisis in the short term future.

          I’d add a third path:

          3. 1-2 more elections like 2016, in which majorities in liberal states/areas are very much at odds with the EC result, and passing laws that favour GOP-preferred state action (concealed carry reciprocity or something like this) while constraining states that try to pass GOP-disliked legislation (preventing CA from enacting desired environmental policies, for example). This is similar to your 2nd path, but without the formality of an assembly of states – basically, liberal states/areas come to realise that they will have zero power and zero chance to do what they want at the state level.

          I also think the ease of referenda in CA is something of a wildcard. I don’t think there would be enough signatures now to get a secession amendment on the ballot, but it’s possible it could happen in the future. It may not pass, but it’d probably get a fairly high % of votes. If it’s held outside the general election cycle then it is plausible, though very unlikely, that it could pass – I believe this is how prop 13 came into being.

    • sosaysyou
    • random

      Those cracks aren’t geographic between states though, it’s just an urban/rural divide that is replicated in most every state. A more effective and easier option is going to be just changing rules over time to reduce the power of rural voters at the state and federal level.

      • humanoid.panda

        Right, this is the obvious counter-argument to my point. The thing is that the small states of the West really do yield an insane amount of power, and are more partisan than they had ever been, while the biggest state in the union is 2/3 Democratic (and climbing) – and openly treated as an enemy by the GOP.

        • HowardBannister

          Two senators from my state represent 500,000 people.

          Two senators from California represent 39 million people.

          They have equal power.

          It’s totally fucked up.

          And, as ExpatJK says, it’s extremely hard to even consider a fix for this.

          • Sev

            Possibly creating more states out of California, like 5 or so, gerrymandered so that each has a likely Dem majority. IOW, if we can’t alter rules re Senate and EC, dilute somewhat. Don’t really know if this is any more likely or practicable. I mean, Texas could retaliate.

            • LosGatosCA

              Both of those would be good things

            • Redwood Rhiadra

              ALL of the proposed “Let’s break up CA into multiple states” plans end up with more GOP states than Democratic states. BAD FUCKING IDEA.

              This is pretty much inevitable, unless the new state lines run right through the middle of San Francisco and Los Angeles.

              • LosGatosCA

                ALL of them?

                Then the plans you have reviewed aren’t very imaginative or they are authored by Republicans.

                A break up into 4 states would likely end up 7-1 in senators, sometimes 6-2 but even the latter is net 2 more Democrats than we have now.

                Not seeing how a Democratic Party controlled devolution yields anything but net positives .

                • Pat

                  One of the guys proposing to break up California went back to Russia, if I recall correctly.

      • ExpatJK

        Minimising rural power at the state level might be possible, but I don’t see how it is doable at the federal level. 2 senators per state is the most obvious example of excess rural power and I think changing that would require a Constitutional amendment. I’d rank that on par with secession in terms of (lack of) ease of doing it.

        • MidwestVillager

          Not just a Constitutional Amendment but one that would need unanimous consent from all fifty states because equal representation in the Senate is the one part of the Constitution that can’t be changed by a three-quarters super majority. Fixing the Senate would be nice but it can never happen within the current political order. The best we can do is increase the size of the House to reduce malapportionment there and reduce the influence of the Senate on electoral votes.

          • Can we do something to the Senate similar to what the British did with the House of Lords, leave it intact but strip some of its powers? Or would that fall under the unanimous provision?

        • applecor

          Unlike other amendments, amending the constitution to deprive states of “equal suffrage in the Senate” requires unanimous consent of all states, making it (probably) the toughest reform of all, harder even than secession.

          Beaten to the punch I see.

        • Just_Dropping_By

          And, as ExpatJK says, it’s extremely hard to even consider a fix for this.

          You could split up California into three states the next time Democrats control both houses of Congress. (This could be done on geographic lines that would maintain Democratic control of all three successor states.) If the legislative filibuster is gone (which most people around here assume will happen imminently), it requires only a majority vote of both houses of Congress and the approval of the California state government.

          • Sev

            i see you beat me to it.

          • Redwood Rhiadra

            This could be done on geographic lines that would maintain Democratic control of all three successor states.

            The thing is, I’m pretty certain this is not possible to do without splitting SF or LA or most likely both. Democratic votes are *really* concentrated.

        • ForkyMcSpoon

          DC statehood seems like a pretty obvious way to increase the power of urban voters in the senate.

          And unlike proposals for Puerto Rico or cutting up California, we already know it has overwhelming support in the jurisdiction.

          If you really want to push it, you could start looking at things like granting statehood to the Virgin Islands. That would certainly heighten the contradictions between proportional representation and the composition of the Senate. (USVI population density is also significantly higher than most US states, so it would also push against the bias towards rural areas.)

          But the no-brainer first step is DC statehood.

          (GOP delenda est.)

      • Hayden Arse

        Perhaps there is a better resolution than secession. Divide California and Texas into three states each, create a new state that includes Chicago and NW Indiana, create a new state for the city of NY, and so forth. This is admittedly unrealistic, but we could add Puerto Rico and get to sixty or more states and get much closer to proportional representation and give urban residents a fair deal without threatening the Union.

        • Sev

          hmm, you too.

        • scott_theotherone

          And combine both Dakotas into one state–which would still be only something like 7% the size of each of the new tri-Californias.

          Yes, I know–the Dakotas themselves would never go for it, and why on earth would they?

          • LosGatosCA

            If you ran government like a business the Dakotas, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Nebraska would have downsized to a single state. Colorado, Kansas, Utah, and Oklahoma combined too.

            The only way out of our current mess is a Koch Bros sponsored constitutional convention

            Wait ….

        • Matt McIrvin

          You need Congressional consent for that sort of thing (and the consent of the states involved).

          I’ve actually wondered for a while why the Republicans don’t just take the rotten-borough strategy to an extreme and divide, say, some depopulated area of Wyoming up into several hundred tiny new states, most of which have three loyally partisan residents (two Senators and a Representative, who double up as the state government and the Electoral College members). It’d be completely constitutional and aboveboard, and they’d have a permanent lock on Congress and the Presidency.

          • randy khan

            Actually, you’d need at least 6 – electors can’t be Senators or Representatives.

          • alexceres

            Because the coastal powers have the money and paying a few loyalists to move to a tiny state and take over is trivial.

            Honestly, this is basically how the democrats should fix Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and the other rust belt states. Not with people, but with infrastructure projects clearly designed to revitalize those state economies while being subsidized by blue states. We can make the rust belt more urban with dollars.

            Dems only need to swing 75-100K votes to basically own the entire federal government forever. And no, the filibuster isn’t going to be a thing.

            • NonyNony

              I think you now perceive exactly the political reason why the Republicans don’t want to do any massive infrastructure projects in rust belt states, despite those voters being their largest constituencies.

              (There’s also the fact that taxes are evil, but that dovetails nicely with their political reasons for keeping the rust belt states poor economically and “encouraging” young people to leave those states to find jobs).

      • timb

        For example HRC won Indianapolis comfortably. She just got hammered everywhere else

        • Thrax

          As did the rest of us when we saw the results.

          • Pat

            I cried. I really did.

    • Apropos of nothing, the people in the rural areas feel as if they are underrepresented, as per that big WaPo/Kaiser survey from Friday.

      Feels beats facts pretty reliably these days.

      • LeeEsq

        Feels beat facts pretty reliably in the past to.

      • sigaba

        To be fair, people in rural states usually are bystanders in politics, while their legislature is operated as a subsidiary of whatever mineral/ag/financial interest has bought them off. The small state governments have outsize influence in federal policy but this doesn’t translate into these people having that much more influence, the sparsely-populated western states have always been deeply corrupt little baronies.

        There are a lot of populist right-wingers out there, who want protectionism and state capitalism and generous social services, just so long as it’s for white Christians only, and this particular perspective hasn’t been represented in American politics until very recently. These people vote for Republicans but it’s very much a negative vote.

    • LeeEsq

      The last time rural areas exercised this level of oversized might against urban areas was during Prohibition. They just didn’t do any seat adjustment after the 1920 census because that would shift things to the urban vote.

    • wengler

      California would be a horrible place to engage in this sort of secession though, because your Republicans are a lot closer to the Wyoming and Utah types than Republicans even here in Illinois.

  • XerMom

    Well, if this doesn’t work, I hope their backup plan is to have Al Franken read the bill aloud on livestream while Chuck Schumer does an interpretive dance around him. I doubt it would stop a vote, but at least it would draw some attention and give me a smile as everything in America burns around me.

    • Lost Left Coaster

      Maybe Michael Moore can read it from an ice cream truck driving around DC.

      • sigaba

        [George Harrison shakes his head]

        “It’s been done…”

    • But what are the odds that the bill ever sees the light of day? The way things are going McConnel is going to demand that they vote on a blank sheet of paper.

      • sibusisodan

        “A bill to reorganize nothing at all, and for other purposes.”

      • timb

        First, the CBO score has to occur. Secondly, any bill on the floor gets 30 hours of debate (altho I think this one is shortened to like 16). It’ll be out there for 2 days or do

      • Last I read, that’s actually a possible technique they’ll use — bring a blank bill to the floor and then amend it to insert the full text.

        • searcher

          They actually have to, more or less – the Senate can’t start a spending bill, so they have to amend a House bill.

  • Joe_JP

    As Republicans try to ram this down our throats, to use their favorite label for the Democrats approach that took over a year with multiple hearings etc., how strong will everyone’s gag reflex be?

    ETA: And, maybe sometime — it can be late at night for sensitive viewers — maybe we can hear Gillibrand say “if you aren’t helping, and you are not, go the fuck home.”

  • Karen24

    Repeat after me: “The Republicans are so ashamed of this bill that they won’t release a copy of it for debate. We have to force them to be honest with the American people.”

    Two sentences, in response to every single question including “how do I get to the Lincoln Memorial from here?” And “what is the weather forecast for tomorrow?” Democrats, can we do this?

    • Joe_JP

      “You want to see that? You must care about democracy.

      Do you know that the Republicans are so ashamed of this bill that they won’t release a copy of it for debate. We have to force them to be honest with the American people.”

      “Going to be hot. You know who can’t take the heat? The Republicans are so ashamed of this bill that they won’t release a copy of it for debate. We have to force them to be honest with the American people.”

      • searcher

        I prefer it without the segues. You become like an NPC in an RPG.

        • Joe_JP

          I think just stating the talking point makes you sound like a total bot.

  • efgoldman

    So Democrats think this is a better strategy than offering a quintillion amendments, each of which requires a vote?
    They know their rules and procedures better than I do.
    Or maybe they’ll do some of both.
    Whatever works.
    As long as none of them – not one – breaks ranks/

    • sibusisodan

      I read that the quintillion amendments idea has some real world limitations: the amendments have to be germane, and the time for amendments lasts as long as the patience of the parliamentarian.

    • Alex.S

      The only strategy to kill the bill is to rally public opposition, which then convinces three Republican Senators to vote against it.

      The only way to do that is to draw public attention to the bill.

      There are no procedural tricks or clever maneuvers. Everything is about getting attention and rallying public opposition.

      • humanoid.panda

        Right. There is no clever maneuver that can stop a determined majority from doing whatever it wants. And any world in which that kind of manuever exists is even worse than our terrible timeline.

      • wengler

        I’m pretty sure Republicans already wrote off Collins and Murkowski. Notably, these are also the two Republicans that don’t really have to worry about losing a primary. So really just one vote. From anywhere.

        • Redwood Rhiadra

          Collins will vote yes. Murkowski is the *only* one who might actually vote no.

  • mongolia

    one thing i’d like to know the answer to, but i suspect we will never get a reliable answer to, is how much the relatively late start of this gum-up-the-works strategy was intentional, i.e. senate leadership thought, rightly or wrongly, that timing this closer to the vote would make it more effective as a strategy, and a plan like this was always in the works, vs. they weren’t really planning anything like this until they started getting pressured by angry dems and dem-aligned groups

    • mds

      Given that McConnell has already gamed the process to ride roughshod over this tactic, I think Democrats might indeed have possibly held it in reserve until closer to a vote, in order to attract some attention when it can do more good. Otherwise, it either drags on for a while, Democrats get painted as obstructionists unprepared to make a constructive contribution, and the media lose interest; or it gets summarily nullified well before the vote, and the media lose interest.

      • rjayp

        Democrats get painted as obstructionists..

        The recent antics by the GOP demonstrate conclusively there is no political price for being so labeled.

        ..unprepared to make a constructive contribution

        If they don’t obstruct, they shall have no chance to make said contribution.

        …and the media lose interest; or it gets summarily nullified well before the vote, and the media lose interest.

        Demonstrating conclusively that the expectation for obstruction is positive.


  • Matt McIrvin

    They probably can’t stop the bill, but they can draw as much attention as possible to what’s going on and who’s responsible, with an eye to future elections.

    • Pat

      I would still bet on the Republicans losing Lisa Murkowski no matter what’s in the bill. Medical costs, and consequently insurance costs, are sky-high in distant Alaska. There is no way the Republican leadership would approve a tax credit anywhere near what Alaskans need to buy insurance.

      Murkowski got elected because enough people wrote her name on the ballot. Everyone would blame her. Losing her seat would be a certainty.

      • Matt McIrvin

        What I heard is that Murkowski and Susan Collins are off the hook–they can pass it without them, with 50 votes plus Pence’s tie-breaker.

  • bender

    We need two more, because if Collins’ vote is actually going to count for something, she’ll flip.

    I think there is a slim chance that Ben Sasse will vote against the bill on procedural grounds. I don’t know where the fourth vote might come from.

    • Michael Cain

      I don’t see how Cory Gardner from Colorado survives the 2020 election if he votes for this. CO has some of the lowest polling numbers for the AHCA in the country. I gotta believe that he’s also hearing from the suburban Republicans in the Colorado General Assembly that this will kill them. And any of them bright enough to look at what it does to the state budget know what’s going to happen when they fold in the AHCA cuts.

      • Just_Dropping_By

        Gardner is one of the most bizarre Republican senators in that his win was already something of a fluke and the Colorado electorate is only getting more Democratic for the foreseeable future. Last fall, when it looked like Clinton would win and the Democrats might get to 49 seats in the Senate, I was wondering if he might even pull a reverse Ben Nighthorse Campbell and switch parties.

        • mds

          Why would a far-right theocratic “tip of the spear” asshole switch parties?

      • Solar System Wolf

        When the House passed its bill, he was putting out the line that he couldn’t vote for a plan that cut back the Medicaid expansion. Now he’s all in on a plan that eliminates the Medicaid expansion, and his weekly mailings are full of inaccuracies about how the ACA is about to implode. He doesn’t hold in-person town hall meetings, but when he comes back to the state he holds closed-door shindigs with his financial backers. Either he thinks we’re all going to forget about his shenanigans by 2020, or he’s just setting up his next lucrative gig in the private sector at this point.

    • mds

      I think there is a slim chance that Ben Sasse will vote against the bill on procedural grounds.

      Even “slim chance” is giving him way more credit than he deserves. Don’t be fooled by his taking “to the right of Ted Cruz” and wrapping it up in a bunch of folksy bullshit. Remember, his “principled” stance against Trump was based on (1) the common expectation that Trump would lose, and (2) heavily laced with garbage about what a baby-eating monster Hillary was, too. He supposedly voted for Mike Pence instead, which should help underscore that he’s yet another bigoted reactionary fundigelical Gilead groupie. And what substantive opposition has he offered to the disastrous un-Christian Trump since inauguration day? Voting against a trade representative nominee for being anti-NAFTA. Someone like that isn’t going to vote against repealing the “worst law in our history.”

  • thispaceforsale

    If this doesn’t work, and the bill passes, the dems in the senate should shut it down. Anything, zero exceptions, no votes. Zero participation in the farce republicans have achieved. Not until the next congress is in session and let 2018 be a referendum on the dumpster fires.
    We aren’t in a place where the news can handle something as insane as secret healthcare destruction. There would be absolutely no negative political consequences, that ship sailed years ago.

  • randy khan

    Apparently the far-right guys (all guys, natch) in the Senate are demanding that the bill be made much worse or they won’t vote for it. Probably all for show, but you never know.

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