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Protests erupt at GOP ObamaCare repeal hearing

Greg Nash

Protests erupted at a Republican-led hearing on their ObamaCare repeal bill, leading Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) to briefly recess the hearing, after police dragged several protesters out.
“No cuts to Medicaid, save our liberty,” attendees chanted. 
Police surrounded the protesters and escorted them out of the room. Well over 100 people were arrested at the hearing and on Capitol grounds, police said later. 
Hatch recessed the hearing, and left the room at 2:12 p.m. A few minutes later, he restarted the hearing after the protesters had been removed, though they could be heard inside the room from the hallway.
At issue is Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Lindsey Graham’s (R-S.C.) bill to repeal ObamaCare, a last-ditch effort to pass legislation by the end of the month when time runs out on a rule allowing Republicans to move a bill without Democrats.
Hours before the hearing, protesters had filled the hall of the Senate office building, some arriving as early as 5 a.m. Many were from the disability rights group ADAPT, who traveled across the country to attend the meeting.
Hatch issued a warning: he won’t hesitate to adjourn the hearing if it becomes a “sideshow” or a place for “putting partisan points on the board.”
“It hasn’t gotten there yet, but it’s getting close,” he said. “Let’s have a civil discussion.” 

The panel’s top Democrat, Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.) said only one group supports the legislation.

“There’s just one group cheering this bill on — the right-wing Republican donor class,” he said.

The hallway outside of the hearing was packed full of protesters, reporters and police officers, leaving the committee room filled with mainly lawmakers, the media and invited guests.

Protesters outside of the hearing room could be heard from the lower floors of the Dirksen Senate Office Building chanting “kill the bill, don’t kill me.”

Police officers closed off parts of the hallway as they forcibly removed protesters, and, separately, told reporters they were dealing with a medical emergency. 

A total of 181 people were arrested for protesting against the measure, the Capitol Police announced in a statement Monday evening.

Most were arrested for failing to cease and desist unlawful demonstration activities outside in the Dirksen Senate Office hallway.

—Updated at 9:19 p.m.

Tags Bill Cassidy Lindsey Graham Orrin Hatch Ron Wyden

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