But wait! With Republicans in control of the House, it's not like the Senate can really get much done anyway. So what's the harm in wasting a bit of time and making this a knock-down-drag-out fight? After all, the House leadership got a nice, clean repeal vote by bringing up the bill under a closed rule and allowing no potentially embarrassing amendments and virtually no debate. In the Senate, by contrast, Democrats control things, and they can bring up all the amendments they want. So maybe they should play along, hold hearings, and force Republicans to vote on, say, an amendment to the repeal bill that would keep the preexisting condition ban in place. And another one that would keep the donut hole fix in place. Etc. etc.I can see the logic in bringing it up in order to vote it down. Gets it out of the way, shuts up GOP complaints about stonewalling, and it's not as if it increases risk for any Democrat. Well, perhaps Joe Manchin, who might will just vote to repeal -- everyone else has already voted to pass it or won't mind voting for it now.
But the amendment strategy sounds like trouble to me. What if all the "exempt the popular stuff" amendments pass? Then what do Democrats do on final passage? Meanwhile, Republicans would be buying themselves cover; unless the amendments are very carefully designed, they might well be able to get on record as favoring repeal for the bill as a whole (more or less the popular position, although see Greg Sargent's reporting on the polling) while voting to retain all the individually popular items.
Besides, I think Ezra Klein is correct:
As a general point, I think "making people take semi-embarrassing votes" is vastly overrated in American politics. Can anyone think of a campaign that even partly turned on one of these gambits?And, at any rate, the single up-or-down vote can already be spun out as a vote to oppose anything in the ACA; factcheckers aren't going to complain if a candidate in 2012 accuses a Senator of opposing a ban on lifetime caps even if there's no specific amendment about it.