Senate Democrats Stepped Up, and They Saved Obamacare

by Joan McCarter –

Sure, the trio of Republican defectors in the Senate—Collins, McCain, and Murkowski—are getting lots of plaudits for standing up to leadership to kill Trumpcare. But what absolutely has to be recognized and applauded is the unity of Senate Democrats throughout.

Start with the five Democrats who are all up for re-election in 2018 in states Trump won by more than 20 points: Sens. Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Jon Tester of Montana. Five more are also in states that Trump won but by smaller margins: Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Bob Casey in Pennsylvania, Bill Nelson in Florida, and Debbie Stabenow in Michigan. Not one of them gave an inch in working with McConnell to undermine Obamacare. Not one of their votes—even in procedural motions—were in question throughout the process.

Thank Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Patty Murray of Washington, who worked throughout to get the Congressional Budget Office to release analyses of the proposals Mitch McConnell was trying to keep hidden. Without them, we wouldn’t have known how deep their Medicaid proposals would cut. We wouldn’t have known how bad skinny repeal would have been, in every iteration. They were making sure we had the CBO numbers right up until the vote, even though the final bill wasn’t released until two hours before it.

Thank Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Chris Murphy of Connecticut who were ceaselessly on the floor talking about the impact repeal would have had, and who between them had hundreds of amendments at the ready to throw a spanner in McConnell’s works in any way they could. There were countless other Democratic senators from Joe Manchin on one end of the spectrum to Massachusetts’ Elizabeth Warren on the other who were on the floor day after day, calling out Republicans for their destruction.

And then there’s Hawaii’s Mazie Hirono, the most dedicated hero of all of them, who interrupted her own treatment  for kidney cancer to be there for this fight to save health care.

Her impassioned and deeply personal floor statement from Thursday night must be watched in whole to be appreciated, but it’s this part that maybe, just maybe, strengthened the resolve of her fellows senators, particularly the three Republicans.

I am fighting kidney cancer, and I am just so grateful that I had health insurance so that I could concentrate on the care that I needed rather than how the heck I was going to afford the care that was going to probably save my life. And guess what? When I was diagnosed with kidney cancer and facing my first surgery, I heard from so many of my colleagues, including so many of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle who wrote me wonderful notes, sharing with me their own experience with major illness in their families or with their loved ones. You showed me your care. You showed me your compassion.Where is that tonight? I can’t believe that a single senator in this body has not faced an illness or whose family member or loved one has not faced illness where they were so grateful that they had health care? I cannot believe that there is a single senator who has not experienced that in their family or their lives. So I know how important health care is. What I don’t get is why every single senator does not know that. Why are we here tonight voting on a bill that has not had a single hearing? Why are we here tonight voting on a bill that would eliminate health care coverage that could save lives for 16 million people? Why are we here voting on a bill that will probably mean that people like me, millions in this country who are now in the ranks of those with preexisting conditions, will not get the health care we need? Why are we here tonight? Where is your compassion? Where is the care that you showed me when I was diagnosed with my illness? […] Mr. President, I will yield the floor by asking my friends to show the compassion to everybody in this country that you showed me.

And thanks to every single one of you who had their backs. The unceasing grassroots resistance was what made it clear that Democrats had to do everything in their power to defeat Trumpcare. They listened. Even before the vote, the Democratic caucus resisted Republicans every step of the way.

The fight is far from over, but this step in it left the Republicans in deep, deep disarray. The infighting and the sniping and the chaos among them is only going to deepen and it’s going to get really ugly. Eventually, they’ll turn the backlash on the Democrats and on us, particularly in the next election year when a whopping 23 Democrats have to defend their seats. But if the fight over Trumpcare has shown anything, it’s that we—and Senate Democrats—can handle it.

 

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos