by Neil W. McCabe12 Jan 2017Capitol Hill
The Senate is already rolling back President Barack Obama’s legacy.It passed the continuing resolution, S. Con.Res. 3, that tears away the fees, taxes and subsidies from the 201o Patient Protection and Affordable Cart Act, Obamacare, shortly after 1:25 Thursday morning, 51-to-48.
All Republicans, except for Sen. Rand Paul (R.-KY), voted for the resolution. Paul criticized the budget resolution for not addressing the federal debt and for not having a companion replacement bill. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D.-CA), who is recovering from a scheduled medical procedure was absent from the chamber.
As senators waited for their names to be called by the clerk, Paul approached the clerk’s desk from side and whispered: “No.”
All Democrats and the two Independents who caucus with Democrats voted against the resolution.
Soon after they voted, virtually all Republicans left the floor. Among the handful staying behind were Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R.-KY) and Majority Whip John Cornyn (R.-Texas), along with Sen. John R. Thune (R.-S.D.), Sen. Roy Blunt (R.-MO) in the front. McConnell sat quietly at his desk, but Cornyn stood tall in the well watching the votes come in.
All of the Democrats did not respond with their names were called off and they sat glumly with their armed crossed or their chins resting on their hand. When the Republicans were done, led by Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D.-N.Y.), each Democrat attempted to make remarks with their vote.
The presiding officer, Sen. Cory Gardner (R.-CO) repeatedly ruled the Democrats out of order: “Debate is not in order during a vote.”
If Gardner was slow to start rapping the palm-held ivory gavel, Cornyn would say in a stern voice: “Point of order.”
Just before the Democrats were done, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R.-AL) appeared on the floor to cast his vote for repeal and President-elect Donald J. Trump’s nominee to lead the Justice Department stayed on the Senate floor until the voting was complete.
After the final passage was announced, Sen. David Perdue (R.-Ga.) said he understood that there was more work to do to fix healthcare in America, but it was most important to start.
“Obamacare is collapsing under its own weight,” he said.
“Since President Obama and his Democratic Super Majority crammed this bill through Congress without one Republican vote, we’ve seen premiums and deductibles increase and choices decrease. Many Americans, like me and my wife, had their insurance plans cancelled altogether,” he said.
“The American people are fed-up and went to their polling booths in November to express their outrage,” he said.
The vote came after a seven-hour hour vote-a-rama that dismissed more than 150 amendments one after the other with only two minutes of debate allowed on each side before a 10-minute vote.
Shortly before midnight, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I.-Vt.) walked up to the four Democratic pages sitting on the steps on the side of the rostrum and asked: “Do you guys have to get up early in the morning tomorrow?”
A little later, Sen. Cory Booker (D.-N.J.) walked over to the clerk’s desk and passed out bags of M&M’s to the clerks and the pages. The pages are high school juniors and seniors, who come from all over the country to run errands for senators for one-year terms.
It was an interesting day for Booker. Earlier became the first sitting senator to testify against a sitting senator up for confirmation when he appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee regarding the Sessions’ nomination for attorney general.
Then, sometime around 8:50 p.m., McConnell summoned Booker off the Senate floor for a meeting in the leader’s office that lasted until 9:10 p.m. Neither senator responded to questions from Breitbart News as they walked past the Ohio Clock on their way back to the Senate floor.
Going into the session there was still doubt if Republicans would hold together with the leadership’s strategy of using the budget reconciliation procedures, which could only strike the financial underpinnings of the 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, leaving the rules and regulations in place for further action.
Five senators, led by Sen. Robert Corker (R. -Tenn.) and Sen. Robert Portman (R.-Ohio) had one amendment that had a very good chance to pass, which would have extended the date for Senate committees to start producing bills to effect the repeal before Jan. 27.
The other three senators were Sen. Susan Collins (R.-Maine), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R.-Alaska) and Sen. William Cassidy (R.-La.).
The Corker-Portman effort would have prolonged the gestation period until March 3.
When he filed the amendment Jan. 9, Corker said he was motivated by the need to link a replacement to PPACA, along with the repeal of Obama’s healthcare reform legislation.
“Repeal and replace should take place simultaneously, and this amendment will give the incoming administration more time to outline its priorities after its chief health care official assumes office and fully reviews the tools currently at his disposal,” Corker said.
“By extending the deadline for budget reconciliation instructions until March, Congress and the incoming administration will each have additional time to get the policy right,” he said.
Sometime at or around 9 p.m., Corker and Portman announced they were pulling their amendment from the floor.
“We understand that everyone here understands the importance of doing it right,” Corker said.
After talking to the leadership, the Tennessean said, “We plan to withdraw this amendment and place our faith in the fact that we’re going to do this in a manner that works well for the American people.”
The advantage to the budget reconciliation procedures is that as a privileged motion, the resolution has 50 hours of debate and is then exempt from the routine 60-vote threshold to close debate.
Because the Republicans hold a 52-to-48 vote advantage, they have the simple majority required to pass a bill, but not the 60 votes to force a vote by ending debate.
In the GOP-controlled House, the Republican leadership has pledged to cooperate with Senate Republicans as they work through repeal.