Senate

Senate Dems step up protests ahead of ObamaCare repeal vote

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Senate Democrats are stepping up their attacks on the GOP effort to repeal and replace ObamaCare ahead of a vote on the plan that could come later this week.  

Democrats launched a talkathon on Monday night from the Senate chamber, speaking for more than three hours and urging supporters to help kill the Senate legislation, which could face its first hurdle as soon as Tuesday. 
 
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) warned that Republicans are trying to “ram this bill through the Senate.” 
 
“After weeks of secret work behind closed doors, the Republicans came up with a plan that will take away health insurance from 22 million people and slash the Medicaid program … all in exchange for shoveling hundreds of billions of dollars of tax cuts to the richest families in this country,” Warren said from the Senate floor as part of the talkathon. 
 
{mosads}Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) urged his GOP colleagues to “do the right thing.” 
 
“I urge them to talk to their constituents about the consequences. … Vote no on this bill for their sake, for the sake of your constituents,” he said. 
 
The floor protest comes after the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis found that under the Senate proposal an additional 22 million people would become uninsured by 2026. The Senate bill, according to the CBO, could also price some low-income Americans out of being able to afford health insurance. 
 
The talkathon took a personal turn for at least one of the more than a dozen Democratic senators who spoke from the floor. 
 
Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), who announced earlier this year that she had been diagnosed with kidney cancer, noted that she will undergo surgery on Tuesday. 
 
“I will be back as quickly as I can to keep up the fight against this mean, ugly bill. The stakes are too high to stay silent,” she said. 
 
Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) praised Hirono, calling her “inspiring.” 
 
“We love you, we wish you well, and we can’t wait for you to come back and rejoin the fight double invigorated,” he said from the Senate floor. 
 
Democrats can’t block the GOP legislation on their own but are under pressure to use every procedural tool available to them to slow down the bill and make GOP senators take tough amendment votes. 
 
If they want to block the bill, they will need to win over at least three GOP senators. So far, four GOP senators have said they will vote against proceeding to the repeal-and-replace bill unless additional changes are made to the legislation. 
 
As senators spoke from the Senate floor, a handful of Democrats, including Sen. Cory Booker (N.J.), Rep. John Lewis (Ga.) and a coalition of activists and supporters had a “sit in” protest outside on the Capitol steps. 
 
“This craven, evil bill,” Booker said. “It’s not about going together. It’s about leaving people behind. It’s about cutting people off. … This is a moment in our nation’s history that is a moral moment, and we have an obligation to remember those who marched for us and fought for us.”

 
He compared the moment to other major events in U.S. history — storming the beaches of Normandy, civil rights marches, suffragettes pushing for women to get the vote, and said, “We weren’t there to fight for this nation … but we are here now. 
 
“Will we give up our sacred honor to fight for our fellow Americans?” 
 
“There is a basic morality in the idea that healthcare should be a human right,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) said at the impromptu event, which Booker streamed on Facebook. “You feel this thing moving our way, right? You heard that nervous optimism in Chuck Schumer’s voice.” 
 
Schumer, from the Senate steps, argued that Republicans wrote their bill “without one woman” and has estimated that Republicans have at best a “50-50 chance” of passing their plan. 
 
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) initially convened a working group of roughly a dozen all-male GOP senators to draft the measure, but stressed that any GOP senator was able to take part in the talks and said leaders had taken in ideas from across the caucus. 
 
Progressive activists are expected to hold events around the Capitol every day to protest the bill leading up to a final vote, which could come on Thursday night or early Friday. 
 
Ben Wikler, the Washington director for the progressive outside group MoveOn.org, called the protest outside of the Senate the “preview night for this fight.” 
Tags Al Franken Charles Schumer Chris Murphy Chuck Schumer Elizabeth Warren Mazie Hirono Mitch McConnell
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