Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer appeared and several other Democratic senators sent a letter to GOP leadership members Monday demanding a further delay of a vote on the Republican's partial repeal and replace of Obamacare -- pending "public hearings" to discuss the bill's contents.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decided to delay the Senate's vote on the Better Care Conciliation Act originally planned for this week while Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) recovers from a surgery to remove a blood clot above his left eye. Because Republicans only hold 52 seats and 50 votes are required for the bill's passage, McConnell cannot afford a single further GOP defection. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) have already pledged to vote against the measure.
The Senate Democrats, led by Schumer, included Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.). The trio penned a letter to McConnell, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) looking to throw a further wrench into the GOP's tenuous shot at passing health care reform.
"Given your decision to delay the vote on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, we request that you use this additional time to hold public hearings ... on the policies in the bill, especially the radically conservative Cruz/Lee proposal released to the public only five days ago," Schumer and the other Democrats wrote.
The "radically conservative" proposal that Schumer cited originated from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and would allow health insurance providers to sell plans that do not fully comply with Obamacare mandates, so long as at least one fully compliant plan was also offered.
The "public hearings" the Senate Democrats called for would allow senators and the American people to "hear unfiltered and unbiased analysis" of the GOP's bill, the letter claimed. Schumer also urged his Republican counterparts to forgo voting on the bill until the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) could release its finalized analysis.
The longer a vote is delayed, the greater the risk for GOP leaders that one more Republican will defect.
Paul noted Sunday on Fox News' "Fox News Sunday" that "the longer the bill's out there, the more conservative Republicans are going to discover that it's not repeal."
Schumer and the Democrats, however, hope the bill will collapse, potentially spurring GOP leaders to cut a deal with Democrats to shore-up Obamacare rather than allow a health care system collapse.
"This bill should be scrapped because it hurts middle class Americans too much at the same time that it gives tax breaks to the wealthy," Schumer told reporters Sunday. "Instead, have Democrats and Republicans sit down and work together on improving Obamacare, specifically making premiums lower and health care better."
Schumer added that "time is not the problem in the present health care bill" because the problem is with "the substance."
The Democrats hope this legislative failure will reflect poorly on Trump and turn his base against him.
"They can point the finger at Trump, but he was unable to fix what they broke," said Dr. Ramin Oskoui, a leading cardiologist in the Washington, D.C., area and a senior health care adviser to LifeZette. "So, I don't think it's at all a failure of Trump's. They can try to tie it to him."
"Trump was really good at messaging during the campaign, and he campaigned in a unique way -- a way that really distanced himself from the establishment. This is a failure of the Republican establishment, and they will hang for this, I think, because the American people elected them across the country to fix this," Oskoui added. "Trump can very easily rationalize to them, 'Listen, I'm a Washington newbie. [House Speaker Paul] Ryan and McConnell, they've passed these bills before. They couldn't even give me one of the bills they passed before for me to sign. I would do it. But I can't sign what they don't pass."
Oskoui suggested the political cost will be staggering for Republicans in Congress.
"The big loser here is congressional Republicans. After bloviating for seven years about how they were gonna repeal and replace the [Affordable Care Act], they haven't been able to pull it together," Oskoui said, noting that "liberal" Republicans like Collins "know that their constituents are addicted to government-subsidized healthcare, as are the insurance industries."
"So I think Schumer wins," Oskoui said, noting that the Democrats have "shown the Republicans to be as dysfunctional as I've always been afraid they were."
"I don't think Trump loses, though. I think Trump has been very clever with his message. 'I'm sitting here in the White House with a pen ready to sign,'" Oskoui added.
Sure enough, Trump repeatedly has pressured GOP congress members through tweets, speeches and meetings to follow through on their campaign promises and deliver the healthcare reform they promised the American people.
"Republicans Senators are working hard to get their failed ObamaCare replacement approved. I will be at my desk, pen in hand!" Trump tweet Friday, adding, "After all of these years of suffering thru ObamaCare, Republican Senators must come through as they have promised!"
"Trump got elected because people were tired of the lack of rule of law, they were tired of the corruption in Washington. And the Republicans, I think, unfortunately brought the focus on themselves by not being able to put forward a bill that changes things like they promised they would. There's always an excuse," Oskoui said.
If Republicans fail to deliver, Oskoui noted that "McConnell and Ryan are going to have to go hat in hand to [House Minority Leader Nancy] Pelosi and Schumer."
"McCain's illness is really icing on the cake. The Republicans were never going to be able to pass a bill that would meaningfully lower premiums and healthcare costs," Oskoui said. "Even as our economy collapses, these guys diddle and make political points ... They played petty politics. They curried donors' favor."
Oskoui noted however that even if Democrats succeed in stopping the GOP push for health care reform, they do still face a messaging problem.
"Democrats have a bigger problem," he said, "they don't have a message. You know, they can talk about Russia and Trump, they can talk about Trump's coarseness of speech, but the problem is ... they don't have have a message as to why I should vote Democratic."
A new Washington Post/ABC News revealed that 52 percent of respondents believe that Democrats stand "just against Trump," rather than standing for a positive and cohesive message of their own. And this, Oskoui warned, could cause Democrats to suffer severe consequences in the 2018 midterm elections.
"They've got to actually think about how they're going to come up with a message that will still win the day, and I think that's their biggest problem. Instead of giving Trump all this air time, I think they need to start coming up with a message that makes sense to everyone," Oskoui said. "We would't be in this position if they hadn't screwed it up in 2009. So that's a double-edged sword."
"I wouldn't be laughing too hard," Oskoui added. "I think that that's like running into a brick wall. I don't think that's going to help them. I think they're going to look like obstructionists, and it will be easy to frame them that way."
"Unfortunately, I think the American people lose, I think the congressional Republicans lose big, and I think the next group that loses is -- I think the Demorcats aren't able to monetize this, because then they still own healthcare, which is good for Trump, which is good for everyone but them. We're here because of you," Oskoui concluded.