Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in an extremely rare move Tuesday, took control of the Senate floor and is forcing a procedural vote on a bill, a step that is typically done only by the Senate majority leader.
The top Democrat’s action now sets up a vote later this week related to a bill that would protect people with pre-existing conditions if the Supreme Court sides with the Trump administration’s Department of Justice and strikes down the Affordable Care Act after arguments are heard in November.
Schumer’s surprise steps were extraordinary because such motions are typically offered by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell who controls the Senate and dictates what gets considered on the floor. Schumer has never before tried to force such a cloture vote in his time as the top minority leader, aides said.
The rules say any senator can do what Schumer did Tuesday but senators typically don’t take these extreme steps because doing so regularly would shut down the Senate.
That’s why it’s custom to let the majority leader set the schedule.
The push comes as protecting the Affordable Care Act is at the center of Democrats’ arguments for winning back the White House, retaking control of the Senate and blocking the confirmation of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to be a justice of the Supreme Court, whom they believe will join with conservatives on the high court to strike down the ACA and the protections for people with pre-existing conditions in the law.
Democrats said a motion to proceed to the bill, which would “protect the health care of hundreds of millions of people of the United States and prevent efforts of the Department of Justice to advocate courts to strike down the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act,” would become the pending business on the floor once a government funding bill passes Wednesday.
It’s not clear when roll call votes will take place but it’s possible as early as Thursday, a GOP aide said.
The measure is unlikely to get the 60 votes it would need to advance. But a vote could still be politically difficult for those Senate Republicans up for reelection this fall who have said they support keeping protections for people with pre-existing conditions, even as the Trump administration took steps to have the law thrown out.
A spokesman for McConnell did not have any immediate response to Schumer’s actions.