WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats took the Senate floor Monday night to push back on the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
In a talkathon that lasted over six hours, Democrats took turns protesting the GOP’s health care bill, known as the American Health Care Act. Many are upset that the GOP will not let Democrats participate in drafting a replacement bill. Minnesota Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Al Franken were among the Democrats voicing their disapproval.
“The House health care repeal bill is a major step backwards,” Klobuchar said during her remarks on the Senate floor. “We don’t know what is being concocted here in the Senate, but clearly something is going on. And we would like to have a say.”
Klobuchar expressed concerns over cuts in Medicaid. She claimed many rural hospitals would be forced to close under the current ACA replacement bill. Klobuchar also acknowledged the high cost of prescription drugs, saying that is something she would like to change in the ACA.
“Most of us agree we have to make changes to the Affordable Care Act. I certainly think so,” Klobuchar added. “There are things we can do, but we can’t do it if we are not in the door because the door is closed. And when the door is closed, it is not just closed for the Democrats in the Senate, the door closed to the American people.”
“What it all comes down to is that we need to work in a bipartisan way to make healthcare better and less expensive for the people in our country,” Klobuchar added.
Franken, during his remarks, took a swipe at President Donald Trump’s so-called “flip-flopping” on the AHCA. According to the Associated Press, in a closed-door meeting with Republican senators, Trump called the GOP health care bill “mean” and instructed the senators to be “more generous.” Franken was quick to jump on this change of tone.
“It went from great to mean. In the Rose Garden it was ‘great.’ Now just a few weeks later that same great bill is ‘mean,'” Franken said on the Senate floor.
Franken also attacked the AHCA directly, calling it a “heartless” and “terrible” bill.
“Worst still, the bill would end the Medicaid expansion,” Franken said. “And for what? To offer tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans.”
Franken echoed Klobuchar’s disapproval for the closed-door negotiations and lack of hearings or floor debate. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to have a vote on the Senate version of the AHCA by July 4. The pending deadline is approaching too fast, Franken says. He also chastised Republicans for previously accusing Democrats of rushing the ACA through Congress, when Senate Republicans have yet to allow Democrat input on the bill.
“The irony is palpable. Feel the palpable irony. Feel it, Mr. President? Does everybody feel it?” Franken asked.
Watch Klobuchar and Franken’s full remarks here. Klobuchar begins her statements at the 2 hours and 33 minutes mark. Franken follows.