Schumer Wants All-Senate Gathering on Health Care

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., wants the full Senate to discuss health care in the Old Senate Chamber, saying the GOP's current process for overhauling the health care system is murky and "legislative malpractice." (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer is making public his “dismay” at Republicans’ closed-door negotiations on the health care bill by inviting all senators to an open meeting on health care in the Old Senate Chamber next week.

“We believe we all owe it to our constituents to meet to discuss your potential legislation that would profoundly impact so many American lives,” the New York Democrat said in a letter sent to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky on Friday.

Schumer asked him to hold a bipartisan meeting for all senators as opposed to the private discussions that Republicans have had. Schumer decried the lack of public hearings on an issue that would affect millions of Americans.

“The U.S. Senate has long been considered the world’s greatest deliberative body and, as members of that body, we should each support open and robust debate,” he wrote. “That is why we are dismayed at the reports that there will be no public hearings on your proposed changes to the American health care system.”

Left-leaning interest groups and critics of the House-passed health care bill (HR 1628) are pressuring Democrats to be bolder in their opposition to the measure.

“Please accept our invitation to sit down together in the old Senate Chamber so we can hear your plans and discuss how to make health care more affordable and accessible in the United States,” Schumer writes.

Republicans have been meeting for weeks in private as they work on their version. They plan to bypass the committee hearing and markup process before bringing a bill to the floor through the fast-track reconciliation process, which requires a simple majority for measures to pass rather than 60 votes. Republican leadership have said they will vote on the bill once they are sure they have the 50 votes they need. Vice President Mike Pence could break a 50-50 tie.

Republicans initially said they wanted to vote before the July Fourth recess but some top Senate Republicans cast doubt on that timeline this week. The GOP has sent options to the Congressional Budget Office for evaluation, but Republicans have not reached consensus on a bill and submitted the full text to the office for scoring on its costs and impact on coverage. Unlike with the House bill, the Senate cannot vote until they have a score from CBO.

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