Senate Democrats

Dear Diary: Documenting Daily Republican Health Care Obstruction

Since the debate began two weeks ago on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Democratic Senators have been committed to passing a bill that saves lives, makes health insurance more affordable and ends insurance company abuses.  

In contrast, Senate Republicans have approached this debate with the shared goal of killing health reform. Senate Republicans have cast votes against transparency, protecting Social Security and Medicare, expanding women’s preventive care access and fiscal responsibility. They have even used precious time to create and publish an obstruction manual.

In case you’ve missed the first several weeks of the debate, here’s a brief recap of Senate Republicans’ attempts to undercut reform:

MONDAY – November 30

Democrats Asked to Hold Votes on Protecting Women’s Health and Protecting America’s Seniors… Republicans refuse to say yes to anything, including simple vote scheduling. Majority Leader Reid asked for consent to hold votes today and said, “I think it would be very good that we could move this bill along, have some votes tomorrow afternoon. We’d have four votes. We have two amendments pending. This, in fact, would dispose of those amendments.” [Senate Floor, 12/1/09]

…And Republicans Objected. Republican Leader McConnell said, “I have to object.” [Senate Floor, 12/1/09]

TUESDAY – December 1

Coburn Continues Fear and Smear, Says Seniors Will “Die Sooner” if Reform Passes. On the Senate floor, Senator Coburn continued to spread fear in the senior community and said, “…seniors, I have a message for you: you’re going to die sooner.” [Senate Floor, 12/1/09]

WEDNESDAY – December 2

Gregg’s Guide to Obstruction Becomes Public. Senator Gregg authored a memo for the Republican caucus outlining all the procedural games at the minority’s disposal during the health care debate. As TPM noted, “Most of the steps Gregg suggests his colleagues take don’t serve any substantive purpose at all, but simply cause the debate proceedings to grind to a halt.” [TPM,12/2/09]

First GOP Action on the Bill – a Motion to Start Over. Instead of beginning to legislate, the Republicans offered a motion to commit the bill back to the Finance Committee to continue overpayments to insurance companies in Medicare Advantage and continue to let waste, fraud and abuse in Medicare occur.  [McCain Motion, introduced 12/2/09, S.V. 358]

Real Republican Agenda Revealed: Use “Esoteric” Procedural Tactics to Delay Needed Health Reform. Roll Call reported on just what the Republicans are up to and wrote, “But instead of offering a conventional amendment, they decided to use an esoteric procedural tactic that would send the bill back to committee with instructions to eliminate the cuts. If successful, the GOP’s gambit would force Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to use time-consuming procedures and hold another filibuster-killing vote on whether to restart debate on the bill.” [Roll Call, 12/2/09]

THURSDAY – December 3

Hatch Motion Yet Another Delay Tactic: Senator Hatch, who introduced the second measure to delay the bill, attempted to send the legislation back to the Finance Committee with instructions to keep overpayments for private insurance companies in Medicare Advantage. [Hatch Motion, introduced 12/3/09]

Majority of Republicans Voted Against Protecting Women’s Access to Mammograms, Preventive Services. The Mikulski Amendment protected women’s right to preventive services, including mammograms. The vast majority of republicans voting did not support the amendment. [Mikulski Amendment, 12/3/09]

Majority of Republicans Voted to Support McCain Motion to Delay Health Reform Legislation. The McCain motion to commit the bill back to the Finance Committee would protect insurance companies by continuing the overpayments they receive in Medicare Advantage. It would also let waste, fraud and abuse in the Medicare system continue to occur.  [McCain Motion, 12/3/09, S.V. 358]

FRIDAY – December 4

All Republicans Voting Supported the Hatch Amendment to Delay the Bill.  39 Republicans – all the Republicans voting that day – voted in support of this motion to delay real legislation on the bill. [Hatch Motion, 12/4/09, S.V. 362]

Johanns Motion Falls in Line With the Republicans Strategy on the Bill. Senator Johanns offered yet another Republican motion to commit the bill back to the Finance Committee. [Johanns Motion, introduced 12/4/09]

SATURDAY – December 5 

All Republicans Voting Supported the Johanns Amendment to Delay the Bill. 37 Republicans – all the Republicans voting that day – voted in support of this motion to delay real legislation on the bill. [Johanns Motion, 12/5/09, S.V. 364]

SUNDAY – December 6 / MONDAY – December 7

Senate Republican Leader Sticks Finger in Air to Decide Medicare Position…

Sunday: McConnell Says “Cutting Medicare is Not What Americans Want.” On Monday, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell lauded Medicare and put out a press release titled: “Cutting Medicare is not what Americans want.”  [McConnell press release, 12/6/09]

Monday: Umm Scratch That…McConnell Says “Expanding Medicare ‘a Plan for Financial Ruin.’”  On Tuesday, Republican Leader Mitch McConnell put out a press release titled: “Expanding Medicare ‘a plan for financial ruin.’” [McConnell press release, 12/7/09]

TUESDAY – December 8

Limbaugh Calls Out McConnell – Not Enough Obstruction. “They are up there adding amendments. There’s no question they’re adding amendments to it. McConnell’s office did call here and say that they are opposing this, so I don’t know if adding amendments is a strategery [sic] to bollix it up and slow it down. But I — I disagree. They just need to say no; there’s nothing wrong with saying no to this!’ Limbaugh said Tuesday. Limbaugh took another shot at Senate Republicans on his show Wednesday. ‘The Senate Republican leadership strategy here was flawed because it allowed the Democrats to take the offensive, buy time to work out a deal,’ Limbaugh said. ‘I know a disaster when I see it. And I know that it’s gotta be stopped, and whatever parliamentary steps are available to people … should have been taken.’” [The Hill, 12/10/09]

WEDNESDAY – December 9

DeMint: Health Care Debate Not About Health Care. In an opinion piece for, Senator DeMint wrote, “But this debate is about much more than health care. It is a battle for the heart and soul of America. It is a struggle between freedom and socialism, between free markets and a centrally planned economy, and between ‘We the People’ and an entrenched class of elite politicians.” [, 12/9/09]

Conservative Organizations Demand Continued Obstruction. In a letter to Republican Leaders McConnell and Kyl, conservative organizations – including Tea Party activists – demanded the GOP leaders use all procedural hurdles available to them to delay, derail and deny the health insurance reform. “Now that the majority has put together a one-party "compromise" it is critical that Republicans make it clear that you will use every prerogative of the minority to prevent them from jamming this new bill through. Please use every procedural tool available to you to ensure there is a full debate, including full debate on each amendment, and to ensure ample time for the American people to communicate their opposition to their elected representatives.” [12/9/09]

THURSDAY – December 10

Steele: Yup, Republicans are Definitely NOT Interested in Health Reform. “Steele encouraged the party leaders to ‘spend every bit of capital and energy you have to stop this health care reform’ and said Democrats are absolutely correct in charging that GOP of doing everything it can to slow down the bill. ‘The Democrats have accused us of trying to delay, stall, slow down, and stop this bill,’ he wrote. ‘They are right. We do want to delay, stall, slow down, and ultimately stop them from experimenting on our nation’s health care. And guess what, so do a majority of Americans.’”  [Politico, 12/10/09]

DeMint Needs More Real Republicans to “Challenge the Republican Party and Our Leadership…” In an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network, Senator DeMint lamented the lack of Republican Senators willing to challenge the leadership and promised to go “out across the country recruiting new Republicans” who will “be willing to even challenge the Republican Party and our leadership if they feel like we’re going in the wrong direction.” “Senator Jim DeMint: ‘I need some new Republicans, people who believe in constitutional government, a balanced budget and liberty and so I’m out across the country recruiting new Republicans who I think if they get here will not only challenge the institutions of government but be willing to even challenge the Republican Party and our leadership if they feel like we’re going in the wrong direction. I think just a handful of new Republicans in the Senate could help change the direction.’” [CBN, 12/10/09, video here]

DeMint: GOP Leadership has “Gone Left.” “Conservative Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) on Wednesday called out the leadership of the Republican Party for straying too far from conservative principles. DeMint, in an interview with the Christian Broadcast Network, also said that he is trying to recruit a new crop of GOP lawmakers to challenge the party establishment. ‘The problem in the Republican Party is that the leadership has gone to the left,’ he said. ‘I need some new Republicans.’” [Blog Briefing Room, The Hill, 12/10/09]

The Republican Leader Wants Votes on Health Reform So Bad…That He Objects to a Vote on Health Reform.  Earlier in the day on Thursday, Senator McConnell said, “We have been anxious to have health care votes since Tuesday and we’ve had the Crapo amendment pending since Tuesday. … We would like to vote on amendments. … All we’re asking is the opportunity to offer amendments and get votes. … I think it is pretty hard to argue with a straight face that we’re not trying to proceed to amend and have votes on this bill. That’s what we desire to do.”  Later that day, Senator Reid proposed a unanimous request and Senator McConnell objected. [Senate Floor, 12/10/09]