Dems Clamor for Seat at Senate Table to Overhaul Obamacare

WASHINGTON (CN) – A week after the House passed legislation to replace the federal health care law, Senate Democrats on Tuesday demanded a seat at the table where their GOP counterparts plan to draft their own bill.

“Working together to improve health care requires an open and transparent process that includes public hearings, an open amendment process and ample time for debate in the full Senate,” the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says.

Copied on the Democratic caucus’s letter were Sens. Lamar Alexander and Orrin Hatch, the respective chairs of the Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

Despite their party’s lukewarm reception of last week’s bill, titled the American Health Care Act, Senate leadership clung Tuesday to their years-long ambition of repealing the previous administration’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Republicans in the Senate plan to craft their own health care package rather than using the exact bill the House passed last week.

McConnell said Republicans will address the health care law “in the coming weeks,” saying the party will use the hour-long lunch meetings the caucus holds three times a week to discuss the plan. McConnell turned back Democrat’s claims that his process has been secretive and not inclusive, saying he would like to hear substantive ideas from the other side.

“I would ask them to tell us what they think ought to be done, if anything,” McConnell told reporters on Tuesday. “If they’re asking to participate, they must be conceding the status quo isn’t sustainable.”

In the letter Democrats said they hope to use the new bill to reduce prescription drug costs, cut premiums and cost of care, and stabilize the insurance market. They did not give exact policy proposals, however, to accomplish those goals.

McConnell also had to address reports that the 13-senator group working on the Senate version of the health care law does not include a woman. McConnell claimed Republicans are all working together on the plan, rather than one small group having control over it, though Democrats did not buy the explanation.

The Hill reported that Republicans invited Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to join the team on Tuesday.

Democrats warn that omitting women from the legislation drafting would be a mistake.

“We know it makes a difference when women are in the room and we know that it makes a difference when women aren’t in the room, on what is brought up, how it’s seen and how it is put together,” Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Tuesday.  “And without women in that working group it is not going to address the issues that women look at when they do health care.”

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