ABC Good Morning America
Protesters opposing GOP health care bill descend upon lawmakers, some arrested
Ali Rogin and David Caplan, Good Morning America July 7, 2017
Protesters around the country on Thursday responded to lawmakers who declined to hold town halls by bringing their complaints straight to the doors of their elected officials’ offices.
From Arkansas to Arizona, supporters of Obamacare chanted, sang songs and in some cases, got arrested as they made their case against the Senate Republican health care bill.
The Arizona chapter of the Progressive Democrats of America, a grassroots PAC operating inside the Democratic Party, said five of its members were arrested at a gathering outside the Phoenix office of Sen. Jeff Flake after a building manager called the police, claiming they were standing on private property. ABC affiliate KGUN reported that the four women and one man were taken into custody for trespassing after they repeatedly refused to leave the private property.
Protesters chanted “Where is Jeff Flake!” and “Now’s the time to stand and fight! Health care is a human right!”
In Tucson, Pima County Sheriff’s deputies arrested two men at a health care-related protest at Sen. Jeff Flake’s office Thursday morning, according to KGUN. Deputies say the men were arrested just before 9 a.m. for reported threats. One of the protesters allegedly referenced the shooting of U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, according to KGUN.
In Arkansas, protesters waited in Sen. Tom Boozman’s Little Rock office, but were told by a staffer to limit themselves to ten people inside the small waiting room.
“Let’s please be respectful of each other,” the staffer told the group.
“Well, we would like for our senator to be respectful,” a protester responded. “If you’re going to have constituents, and if he’s going to be the U.S. Senator, he should have an office where constituents can come sit and speak their minds!”
At Sen. Tom Cotton’s office, in the same building as Boozman’s office, other protesters sang pro-Medicaid songs, to the tune of “Glory, Glory Hallelujah.”
And another protester told a Cotton staffer, “The legislation is supposed to make cuts to VA services … as a veteran Sen. Cotton should have other veterans in mind.” The staffer responded, “We appreciate your service. Thank you.”
Sen. Cruz was one of the few Senate Republicans to hold a town hall. Most of the questions at the event in Austin were on veterans’ health care, but he did have a few spirited exchanges with supporters of the ACA.
“I’m happy to have a conversation, but if we’re just yelling back and forth at each other, we can’t have that,” he told one heckler.
At the end of the event he thanked the largely friendly audience for a “respectful and spirited debate,” adding, “we may not have convinced each other but that’s part of the democratic process.”
Protesters, who chanted songs, also rallied outside of Sen. John Cornyn’s office in Austin.
Police were spotted escorting protesters away, and one of the officers was spotted frisking a male protester.
Obamacare supporters held a “Save Medicaid Rally” in Denver, where several hundred people showed up.
One female protester urged rally-goers to call Sen. Corey Gardner. “Call him at least once a day and tell him to vote no and to commit to us, before he leaves Colorado, to vote no on this ridiculous tax cut for the wealthy!” she said.
Activists at Sen. Corey Gardner’s Denver office didn’t get a face-to-face meeting, but they did get a 15-minute phone chat with their senator, who was not in the Denver area.
They told him they “demanded” that he vote “no” on the Senate bill — but Gardner said he couldn’t say how he would vote because the bill as presented is just a “discussion draft,” not the final version.
“I can’t commit yes or no,” he told the activists, from the Denver chapter of Democratic Socialists of America.
A few dozen protesters chanted and held signs outside Sen. Mitch McConnell’s office in Lexington.
“Don’t get sick! Please die quick!” chanted protesters, mocking the GOP’s healthcare plan.
Sen. Jerry Moran was treated warmly by a crowd at a town hall in Palco that seemed largely supportive of Obamacare, because he opposes the current Senate GOP bill.
He had a few exchanges with the liberal members of the audience, but all of them were respectful. This was a crowd that clearly appreciated being among the few that actually had an opportunity to talk to their senator over this recess.
“If public hearings are not held in the Senate on the next Senate bill, will you withhold your vote?” one attendee asked Moran of the health care bill.
“I will not necessarily. That’s not the criteria. I know that’s not the answer you were looking for,” Moran responded.
“No!” she said back, though she listened attentively as he explained why that wasn’t the case.
Moran touched on the scarcity of Republican town halls.
“I’ve been told that it’s silly to hold town hall meetings,” he said. “You may not be my voters, but you are my constituents. And you deserve to have a conversation with me,” he added, to applause.
TwinCities Pioneer Press
Health care bill would have devastating effects on Minnesotans, Dayton says
S.M. Chavey, Pioneer Press July 5, 2017
At a Minneapolis news conference Wednesday, Gov. Mark Dayton and U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, both Democrats, railed against the proposed health care bill in the U.S. Senate.
The Republican-written health care measure would unwind parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare, and replace them with a less generous and, to backers, a less onerous health insurance program.
The bill threatens health insurance for an estimated 22 million Americans, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO, a nonpartisan office, said the planned Senate health care measure would deliver a 35 percent spending cut to Medicaid, a program for people with low incomes, by 2036.
About 1 million Minnesotans are on Medicaid, with a further 100,000 on the state-run MinnesotaCare. That’s about 20 percent of the state’s population, Dayton said. The national health care bill under consideration would cost Minnesota $2.8 billion a year by 2026 and a total of $31 billion by 2030 — and that’s too big of a cut for the state to back fill, the governor said.
He and Ellison, who represents Minneapolis, urged Minnesotans to speak out against the bill.
“Quality health care is a right, and it should be treated as such,” Dayton said.
The U.S. House replacement for the federal Affordable Care Act passed by just two votes in May. The three Republican House members from Minnesota voted in favor of the measure. The five Democrats voted against it.
Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis said the measures being debated in Congress would create a more robust, affordable and nimble health insurance market.
“We undo the price controls, we undo the mandates, so young and healthy people can get back in the insurance pool with lower premiums,” said Lewis, in his first term representing Minnesota’s south-suburban 2nd District.
Lewis defended slowing the growth of Medicaid, saying that the able-bodied poor adults it expanded to cover under the Affordable Care Act shouldn’t be the program’s focus.
In the face of opposition from Senate Republicans, the Senate delayed a vote, originally planned for the end of June, on its replacement until after the July 4 recess.
“It’s not too late to raise your voice to stop this terrible Senate bill,” Ellison said Wednesday. “If we want to preserve ACA and even extend it and make it better, it’s time to raise your voice and to understand that we are right.”
Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said the bill would affect Minnesotans in particular by removing federal funding from MinnesotaCare and by not giving Minnesota credit for the reforms it has made to Medicaid.
“If Congress and the president are serious about reducing health care costs, they should really look to states like Minnesota that have innovated and reformed the way we deliver health care for the people of Minnesota, and not punish us for the reforms,” Piper said.
Piper said Medicaid pays for almost half of substance-abuse treatment in Minnesota. Medicaid enrollee James Robinson, of Minneapolis, said Medicaid helped him work through his addictions.
“If it weren’t for the funding of some of these programs … there would have been no support system that saw the good in me and said, ‘You deserve to live,’ ” Robinson said at the news conference.
David Montgomery contributed to this report.