Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., has a stack of more than a hundred amendments ready to propose during the debate over repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, according to sources familiar with Merkley’s thinking.
The unusual Senate process that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is employing creates the opportunity for unusual situations on the Senate floor — allowing for maneuvers like the one planned by Merkley.
The first 20 hours of debate will be fairly normal, evenly divided between the two sides with major amendments offered and voted on. None of them are expected to pass, because McConnell does not have the votes for full repeal or for his replacement measure. Instead, he is focused on a “skinny repeal” targeting merely the individual and employer mandates for insurance, and the medical device tax.
Along the way, however, the Senate will have a period of time known as a vote-a-rama, where an unlimited number of amendments can be offered. Merkley plans to take advantage of that process and offer as many as physically possible.
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., also said he has a huge stack of amendments ready to go. “It’s safe to say there’s not a lot of enthusiasm for a short process,” he told Politico.
Ultimately, McConnell could demand that the tactic be ruled dilatory and, even in the absence of such a ruling, could shut it down with a majority vote. But previously he and other majority leaders have preferred to try to wait it out, hoping that fatigue sets in.
The vote-a-rama will begin later this week. A spokeswoman for Merkley declined to comment.
This story was updated to include Murphy’s comment. Sign up here to get Ryan Grim’s newsletter, Bad News, in your inbox.