Senate to Choose Between Health Catastrophe or Something Worse

Marc Stier |

Mitch McConnell and his Republican allies have one more trick up their sleeves to try to get some health care bill through the Senate. This week they will seek a vote to proceed to debate on the bill passed in the House on the understanding that there will be a process, colloquially known as voterama, in which a series of votes on one or more substitutes to the bill, or amendments, will be introduced. That is, Senators are being asked to proceed to debate without any clear idea what final bill they will eventually vote on.

I will say more about the process in a moment. But first I want to urge you to join the Insure PA / Protect Our Care phone bank to ask people in those states with Senators who are unsure about their position to call those Senators and ask them to vote no. (You can call Senator Toomey, too, but he pretty clearly has decided he cares far more about tax cuts for the rich than health care for Pennsylvanians.)

To join a phone bank, email Robin Stelly at for instructions.

Back to the Senate process. The motion to proceed to debate without a bill in advance is McConnell’s way to dragoon his members into moving repeal and / or replace forward by claiming that this is just a procedural action, not a vote for any particular outcome. And, by being vague about the outcome, McConnell has already moved one previous opponent,  Senator Rand Paul, to drop his opposition to the motion to proceed. He hopes that once this hurdle is overcome, he will have time to find the magic combination of provisions that, together with immense political pressure, can generate support from 50 Republican Senators.

We need to stop him. This process is dangerous. Once the debate and amendment process starts, and voterama begins, there is no telling exactly what will happen. And, there are two things we do know.

First, whatever the Senate passes will be horrible. As we have seen, there is no way to fix this terrible bill. Given its basic structure, it will necessarily take insurance away from millions of people. And there is no fix or combination of fixes that can stop that. The CBO score on the latest version of the repeal and replace bill shows that 22 million fewer people will have health insurance. The latest score on the repeal bill shows that 32 million fewer people will have health insurance. No changes to these bills can reduce these number by much. The choice is between catastrophe and something worse.

Second, we know that as we move closer to a final vote, Senators will put forward amendment after amendment that, they claim, fixes one or another problem with the bill and, they say, justifies their vote for final passage. But those claims will all be dishonest, and there will be no CBO score to show how dishonest they are. The basic math of health care reform won’t be changed, and adding new provision that total even $300 or 400 billion won’t be able to make up for cutting $1.2 trillion in federal support for health care spending.

So our goal now is to ask Senators to vote against proceeding to debate on any health care bill. Our best chance to stop catastrophe is to stop the Senate from taking up health care altogether.

Call Senator Toomey to tell him to vote against the motion to proceed. And then email Robin Stelly at to join a phone bank calling into states with Senators that still have a conscience.