Feb. 11, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Senators Spar Over Process

“When they said they would do anything to pass health care, I don’t think most Americans had Cornhusker Kickbacks and rewriting the Congressional rulebook over extreme public opposition in mind,” one GOP leadership aide said. “Republicans will do anything and everything possible to ensure that this bill is put on the shelf and that we can start over and go step-by-step to address the costs of health care. We will provide no quarter. No Byrd rule opportunities will be missed, no amendments withheld, no opportunity to stop this $2.5 trillion boondoggle unexplored.”

The language of both sides has been hyperbolic, and Democrats said some of their Members might take a page from controversial Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who has been accused of making outrageous claims against Democrats.

“For us, this is about the democratic process, and some of our more aggressive Members will deploy the Michele Bachmann strategy, which is asking Republicans why they hate freedom,” one senior Senate Democratic aide said.

In the meantime, Republicans plan to charge that the same process they used to pass controversial tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 is akin to the GOP’s 2005 push for the “nuclear option” to clear Bush administration judicial nominees on an up-or-down vote. Republicans were so incensed at Democratic filibusters of judges that year that they planned to have then-Vice President Dick Cheney declare them unconstitutional.

“This will be the same effect as if you’d changed the rules for judges. It’ll be catastrophic,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “The minority in the Senate, if this happens, is forever changed.” Graham was a member of the bipartisan “Gang of 14” that thwarted the rules change on judges.

Similarly, Graham described as “catastrophic” the effects on the chamber if Democrats follow through on a plan to shut down GOP amendments to the reconciliation bill.

Democrats are considering a potentially risky strategy of using a Senate rule against “dilatory” amendments during the reconciliation debate. The rule has rarely been used and never used during reconciliation, which otherwise cannot be filibustered.

Gregg criticized Democrats for “intending to use the chair to significantly limit the ability of the Senate to offer amendments and debate.”

But Democrats said the GOP’s complaints are not only hypocritical, they are unfounded.

“It makes them look out of touch and like a bunch of whiners, probably for the same reason that made us look like a bunch of whiners back in 2005,” one senior Senate Democratic aide said. “It’s a hard argument for them to make, especially when their hands are not clean.”

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