Withholding Consent and Filibuster by Amendment Call Script

Health Care | June 15, 2017

Do you have a Democratic Senator? Then it means they’ve publicly committed to voting against TrumpCare. That’s great—but it’s not nearly good enough. This is a do-or-die moment on the ACA and your Democratic Senator should be doing everything they can to stop this bill from getting through the Senate. Here’s how they can really play hardball to defeat TrumpCare.

Republicans will stop at nothing to get TrumpCare through.

They’re using a strategy of speed and secrecy to pass TrumpCare in the Senate. No hearings, no town halls, and no CBO score. And they definitely aren’t letting anyone read the bill. We need to slow them way down and draw attention to their terrible bill and their terrible process. That way, everyone will know how many people will lose coverage, how many protections will be taken away, and how much premiums are expected to increase.

Democrats aren’t in control, but they can still resist.

There are two main ways that your Democratic Senator can fight back against Trumpcare:

  1. Withhold consent. Your Democratic Senator can slow down Senate business, in part by “withholding consent.” The rules of the Senate are so complicated that Senators have to regularly consent to waiving some of them so that they can actually get work done. That includes shortening time for debates, expediting consideration of amendments, and scheduling committees. Your Senator can slow the Senate down to a crawl and focus attention to TrumpCare by withholding his or her consent on legislative business.
  2. Filibuster by amendment. Republicans are using a special process called “reconciliation” to jam through TrumpCare. This means they only need 51 votes, instead of the usual 60, to pass it. But the trade-off is that they have to allow an unlimited number of amendments. Any Senator can file as many amendments as they want and then call them up for a vote on the Senate floor during a period called “vote-a-rama.” Democratic Senators can and should plan thousands of amendments and keep them going until Republicans agree to have public hearings on the bill.

Your Senator might act like they can’t do this out of some unspoken rule of Senate courtesy. But this is no ordinary time in the Senate—we have to pull out all the stops to stop TrumpCare.

Sample Call Dialogue: Withhold Consent

Caller: Hello! My name is [name] and I’m calling from [place in state]. Am I correct that [Senator] opposes TrumpCare, the American Health Care Act?

Staffer: Yes! [Senator] is totally opposed.

Caller: I’m glad to hear that. Can you tell me what [Senator] has done so far to oppose it?

Staffer: Sure. [Senator] gave a speech on the floor recently that talked about the bill’s impact in our state. She’s listened to many constituents and heard their personal stories. She’s encouraged her colleagues to let us read the bill or have hearings on it. And yesterday she did an epic tweet storm.

Caller: I’m afraid it’s going to take more than talk and tweet storms to stop this terrible bill. We have to slow this process way down and call attention to the terrible bill Republicans are trying to jam through in total darkness. We have to use every tool available. Does [Senator] intend to withhold her consent on all Senate business until we have hearings and a complete CBO score?

Staffer: Withholding consent doesn’t actually buy us that much time. It would only delay things by 30 hours.

Caller: I’m not just talking about refusing to agree on shortening debate time on TrumpCare or other bills. I’m talking about withholding consent on amendments, placing holds on nominations, and objecting to all unanimous consent requests until there are hearings and a complete CBO score. Will the [Senator] do that?

Staffer: Well, [Senator] thinks that could backfire. We’re trying to work together with Republicans on on other important issues, like investigating Russian interference in our democracy.. Withholding consent could make that more difficult.

Caller: Of course we want to know more about the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. But 23 million Americans’ healthcare, including [coverage loss in state, find here] is important too. That’s what’s at stake. This is the most important thing right now and the issue the Senator needs to be focusing on. I don’t think anything else is worth healthcare getting ripped away from millions of Americans.

Staffer: I’ll let [Senator] know of your thoughts.

Caller: Please do. I expect her to use every tool she has. That also includes offering as many amendments as it takes to draw out Senate debate on this bill during vote-a-rama.

Sample Call Dialogue: Filibuster by Amendment

Caller: Will [Senator] prepare hundreds or thousands of amendments to offer during vote-a-rama?

Staffer: I’m not sure what you mean. Vote-a-rama only lasts a night or so.

Caller: That’s because both parties have always agreed to end it. [Senator] can file thousands of amendments—and then call each of them for a vote—so that debate is prolonged long enough to leave Republicans with no choice but to agree to hearings and a complete CBO score. Along with her colleagues, [Senator] can and should let the Republicans know they will offer amendments into the July 4 recess or longer, holding the floor with amendments as long as it takes to guarantee Americans can read the bill, see a CBO score, and that the Senate has hearings.

Staffer: Again, the Senator thinks that could backfire. There are other things we want to work on, as well.

Caller: That’s terrible. Like I said, this is the most important thing happening right now. I expect [Senator] to get in the arena for her constituents. The stakes are too high to leave any tool at her disposal unused.

Staffer: I’ll let [Senator] know of your thoughts.

Caller: Please do. If she isn’t using these tools, that means she’s not doing everything in her power as a Senator to stop TrumpCare. I expect her to use every tool she has. That includes withholding consent and offering as many amendments as it takes to get a hearing and a CBO score. Please take down my contact information so you can let me know when [Senator] decides to play hardball.