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Sanders Signals Backing of Senate Slowdown Over Health Care Bill

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(Bloomberg) — Sen. Bernie Sanders signaled support for Democrats trying to shut down Senate business in response to Republicans’ closed-door work on legislation to change the Affordable Care Act.

“I am in favor of the American people and members of Congress doing everything that we can to defeat that horrific piece of legislation that will hurt tens and tens of millions of people in our country,” Sanders said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

(Related: Senate GOP Writing ACA Change Bill Behind Closed Doors)

CNN reported on Saturday, citing unnamed sources, that Democrats are considering steps to halt Senate business to protest Republicans working on their health bill in secret.

The former Democratic presidential candidate from Vermont responded to a question about whether he favors such a tactic, as a small group of Senate Republicans prepare their version of a bill that the House passed on May 4 to repeal and replace President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

Options open to the Democrats include using parliamentary moves to prevent committees from meeting for longer than two hours, which would make it difficult for Republicans to schedule votes on even routine matters, CNN said.

Democrats have protested Senate Republican leaders drafting their health care bill behind closed doors. Even some rank-and-file Republican senators, including Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona, have said they don’t know what’s in the measure.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Thursday she wasn’t sure if she could support the bill. “I just truly do not know, because I don’t know where it’s going,” said the Alaska Republican. Senate leaders can afford to lose only two votes when they bring the legislation to the floor.

Although the two bills that created the Affordable Care Act were passed with all Democratic votes in 2010, the sprawling legislation was debated and voted on by three committees in the House and two in the Senate, with opportunities to amend it before it was passed in 2010, Democrats have said.

“They’re ashamed of the bill,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said on the Senate floor on June 12. “They know they have the hard right on their backs, saying you gotta do something. But at least have the decency, honor, a little bit of courage. Put the bill out there and let us debate it and let us amend it.”

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said on CNN that work by Republicans is “only a starting position” and that there should be “plenty of time for debate, analysis, and changes and input” on the bill by lawmakers from both parties.

“If it is an effort to rush it from a small group of people straight to the floor on an up-or-down vote, that would be a problem,” he said.

— Read Bucking Trend, Insurer Centene Expands ACA Exchange Coverage on ThinkAdvisor.


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