Progressive activists are staging “sit-ins” outside the offices of GOP senators on Thursday, recreating recent scenes from Capitol Hill in several states — including Republican strongholds like Kentucky and Tennessee.
It’s part of a strategy to use the current congressional recess to pressure GOP senators who are in the midst of negotiations over replacing the Affordable Care Act. A version of the plan, which a Congressional Budget Office estimate says could cause 22 million Americans to lose health insurance, has already passed the U.S. House and Democrats are unified in opposition to it.
The groups, including Our Revolution, which is affiliated with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the Working Families Party and Democracy Spring, say hundreds will risk arrest as they converge on 21 states, with key events targeting Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell as well as Sens. Jeff Flake of Arizona, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rob Portman of Ohio, and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania. The protests are notable in that they also target GOP strongholds, including Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas.
“Trumpcare has never been about health care,” said Working Families Party national director Dan Cantor. “It’s a naked attempt to steal health care from millions of Americans in order to pay for massive tax cuts for the richest people in history. It’s despicable. Even Republican senators must know in their hearts that this is wrong. But still they press forward,” Cantor said in a statement.
As Republicans attempt to find a consensus on health care, Democrats are hitting hard the effects the GOP blueprint would have on rural communities, which overwhelmingly voted for President Trump in the November election. Later on Thursday, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Penn., plans to join former U.S. Agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack to detail the impact the plan would have on rural Pennsylvania.
“If passed in its current form, the GOP health care scheme would make health care unaffordable for millions, kill jobs, threaten rural hospitals and funding for local school districts, and make it harder for people with opioid addiction to access treatment,” Casey’s office said in a statement.
Republicans have been arguing that Obamacare is collapsing since a number of insurance providers have pulled out of the individual insurance markets in different states. Democrats say the Trump administration’s threats to withhold insurer payments via Obamacare has helped cause the problem.