Hours before the Senate narrowly voted down Republican health care legislation known as the “skinny” Obamacare repeal, U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, excoriated the majority party for rushing votes Thursday on variants of bills that no one but their authors had seen.
In a lengthy address on the Senate floor, his voice rising in anger and dismay, Bennet invoked Benjamin Franklin’s famous remark that the Founders had created “a Republic, if you can keep it.”
Comparing the Republic envisioned by Franklin with the path taken by GOP plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Bennet said, “Seen from this perspective, this process is a disgrace. This is why we have a 9-percent approval rating in the United States Senate. What’s been referred to in previous generations as the greatest deliberative body in the world, those words are spoken mockingly today. And the people I represent and the people the presiding officer represents are paying a price for this.”
When the vote finally occurred after midnight, three Republican senators — Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and John McCain of Arizona, who returned to Washington Tuesday after a brain cancer diagnosis to take part in the debate — voted with every Democrat to sink the “skinny” repeal bill on a 49-51 vote. The legislation would have repealed the individual and employer mandates under Obamacare and defunded Planned Parenthood.
At about 2:30 a.m. Washington time, President Donald Trump issued a threat on Twitter to “let ObamaCare implode.”
“3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down,” the president tweeted. “As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!”
3 Republicans and 48 Democrats let the American people down. As I said from the beginning, let ObamaCare implode, then deal. Watch!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 28, 2017
Bennet tore into Trump in his speech earlier in the day Thursday after pointing to the Republicans’ inability to even begin debate on their health care overhaul without a tie-breaking vote from Vice President Mike Pence.
“Every single person in this body knows the president of the United States has no idea or interest what’s in this legislation,” Bennet thundered. “Every single person here knows that.”
Why, then, he asked, were GOP leaders moving forward with the legislation? “We’re doing it, I guess, to fulfill a campaign promise to repeal Obamacare,” Bennet continued. “And I can understand why there’s pressure for people to do that because they’ve said that over and over again.”
While he said he understood that motivation — even though he disagreed with Republican arguments against the Affordable Care Act — Bennet said he didn’t understand “the impulse of writing the bill in secret, not having — listen to this, folks! — not having a single committee hearing. Not one committee hearing in the Senate. Talk about ‘read the bill,’ how about have a bill that’s written down on paper so we can read it? Where are my brethren in the Tea Party that wanted to read the other bill? There was a bill then. There had been a bill for a year and a half. There’s no bill! There’s no bill.”
He added that the legislation that would be considered later — so-called “skinny” repeal, narrowly crafted to win enough votes to create a conference committee with the House of Representatives, even though senators were assured it would never become law — was an attempt to “figure out what they can eke out across the line here.”
“I don’t know how that satisfies the laugh test when it comes to campaign promises made around here,” Bennet said, shaking his head. “But that’s not my issue. But we should just stop.”