Yet another Trumpcare push by the GOP triggers yet another uprising
Dawn Russell gets arrested by Denver police officers after refusing to vacate the offices of Republican Sen. Cory Gardner in downtown Denver, Colo., Thursday, June 29, 2017. Police arrested a group of disabled protesters on Thursday evening who had spent three days camped out in Gardner’s office, demanding that he pledge to oppose the GOP’s health care plan. Disabled people and others returned to the halls outside Sen. Mitch McConnell's office this week when it was learned that for the third time now that the Trumpcare bill, like a zombie, has come back. In its latest version, the zombie bill, which is still secret and is being rammed through the Senate, guts Medicare and Medicaid and throws millions off of health insurance. | Helen H. Richardson/AP

COLUMBUS, Ohio—How upset are Americans with the Republicans’ health care plan?

Well, Columbus, Ohio, police threw Alisha Grishman, 35, disabled from multiple sclerosis and inflammatory arthritis, out of her wheelchair, then arrested her and 15 others who protested the bill at Ohio GOP Sen. Rob Portman’s office there on July 7. Her ejection was filmed on a now-viral video. A second protest occurred at Portman’s Cincinnati office.

The Ohio protests and arrests were just one indication that a majority nationwide opposes the Republican legislation, which is scheduled for a vote by the end of the week of July 18 – or so its sponsor and author, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kent., hopes.

Neither senators nor demonstrators know yet the details of McConnell’s revised secret bill. But Grishman and other demonstrators know and are united on three key points: (1) Republicans want to take their health care away. (2) The real aim of McConnell’s bill is to give a tax windfall to the rich. (3) Protesters will keep the pressure on to ensure the bill dies.

That’s led them to the streets and to sit-ins and demos at congressional offices – protests that will continue for the foreseeable future. Until now, they’ve produced these results:

There have been arrests outside 13 different offices of lawmakers in D.C., where U.S. Capitol Police hauled away 80 people from July 10 – 21 from the House and 59 from the Senate.

Portman was also one of four GOP senators – Texas’ Ted Cruz, Arizona’s Jeff Flake and Tennessean Lamar Alexander were the others – who found demonstrators inside their U.S. Senate D.C. offices, not just out in the hall, on July 10. The demonstrators chanted “Save our lives, kill the bill” and “Come out and talk to us.” The Capitol Police hauled the 80 off from all the offices and halls and charged them with obstruction and other misdemeanors.

Cruz got an earful from constituents during a July 4 parade in McAllen, Texas, as did GOP Sen. Susan Collins – who is already a “no” – in Maine. Cruz’ reply was to praise democracy and the right of free speech, but not to switch positions on health care. Actually, Cruz and fellow right wing Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, plan to vote “no” unless McConnell inserts Cruz’ minimal insurance standards, letting insurers put bare-bones policies, into the bill.

Signs at the protests point out how the GOP bill would finance $992 billion in tax cuts. Progressive groups calculate that 40 percent of that money would go to the richest 1 percent of the population. Other calculations show the rich as a group would get $700 million of the total.

Even the conservative San Diego Union-Tribune editorial page blasted the GOP.  “Under the Senate plan, for example, people in their 50s would face premiums of more than $1,000 a month on the federal exchange — up 13 percent from today. Republicans haven’t solved their conundrum: The uproar over how the Affordable Care Act’s mandates made health insurance so expensive has driven the GOP’s nationwide success since 2010, but the party’s proposed fixes offer little or no relief to many Americans.

“Which brings us to the most perverse part of this policy fight: Far and away the biggest beneficiary of the Senate bill — much more so than young people whose premiums would drop in cost — are the very wealthy…Only in the modern Republican Party could what passes for health care reform include a massive tax cut for millionaires and billionaires.”

Sarah Wasko at the progressive group Media Matters for America notes that while the protesters include women, minorities, workers and retirees, white men are 87 percent of those featured discussing repeal on cable news shows and mainstream media. But most of those who would lose coverage, or see types of care – such as birth control — eliminated from coverage or see their premiums skyrocket are women and minorities.

Pregnancy would again become a pre-existing condition, not covered by insurance in many cases, Media Matters notes. But mass media aren’t talking with women on health care.

Opposition to the GOP’s health care scheme runs the gamut from organized labor to physicians to consumer groups to Democracy for America, Credo and other progressive organizations. The latest to join the crusade: the Association of American Medical Colleges. But even more than groups, citizens of all ages and political stripes have taken to the streets:

“The fight is only beginning,” the Communications Workers declare. “The Senate plan is a massive tax giveaway to the wealthy and corporations – households with incomes above $1 million a year would get annual tax cuts averaging more than $50,000 apiece, paid for by cutting health care for lower-income families.

“Please call 1-855-980-2280 or click here to tell your senator to oppose this devastating attack on health care. It’s not a healthcare bill; it’s a $700 billion tax giveaway to the wealthy,” out of a total $992 billion tax cut.

  • “We must keep the pressure on,” the Machinists add. “Keep calling your senators at 1-866-865-8089.Tell your senators to start from scratch and pass healthcare reform that works for working Americans.”

Meanwhile, McConnell’s trying to unite radical right wingers who want to repeal the 7-year-old Affordable Care Act and not replace it at all – thus throwing hundreds of millions of Americans on the mercy, or lack of it, of the insurance companies — and more-mainstream, mostly conservative, Republicans who want to replace the ACA with their own pro-business, pro-insurer measure.

To appease the right, McConnell’s bill might feature Cruz’ scheme to offer most Americans bare-bones coverage as long as insurers offer one policy that meets the current ACA standards for what’s covered. But Cruz’ measure, like the ACA, would not limit how much insurers could charge. He calls his move the “consumer freedom” amendment.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office calculates the McConnell legislation, like the House-passed so-called American Health Care Act, would throw 21 million-22 million people off the health care rolls. If the GOP-run Congress passes it and GOP President Donald

Trump signs it, some two-thirds of them would lose health care coverage next year, CBO adds.

All this is to give a $700 million tax cut to millionaires and billionaires, since, technically, the health care bill is a congressional budget “reconciliation” bill which is only supposed to cover taxes and federal spending in line with prior budget guidelines.

The point of the protests: To ensure that enough Republican senators defect from McConnell’s bill to kill it. He has 52 Republican votes in the 100-member Senate and can lose only two. If three vote “no,” the measure dies. So demonstrators want to ensure that at least three Senate Republicans join both independents and all 46 Democrats to vote “no.”


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of the People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C.   Gruenberg has been editor-in-chief of PAI since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jarvis bureau chief for the Middletown NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for the Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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