Health care activists are battling confusion and exhaustion as they try to mount yet another stand — the last, they hope — against Republican efforts to repeal Obamacare.
As Vox’s Dylan Scott has documented, congressional Republicans look primed to take one last run at Obamacare with a bill sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) before their September 30 deadline — and appear only a handful of votes away from pulling it off.
The bill has not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office, but health care experts believe it would result in millions losing their insurance by ending the Medicaid expansion, reducing federal health care spending, and shifting massive new financial burdens onto the states.
Still, progressive organizers fighting the bill are terrified that the resistance won’t mobilize fast enough to stave off the danger. Organizers believe they helped sink the first several iterations of the bill through civil disobedience and demonstrations that awakened the public to repeal and replace — and that another round of activism is now needed to snuff out this last-ditch effort.
“I'm still having a really hard time convincing people this is real,” said Jennifer Flynn Walker, of the Center for Popular Democracy, which has coordinated protests against the Republican health bill. “Nobody has believed the few voices warning that this is real. But it is — and we don’t have time to waste.”
Health care activists try mobilizing in time to kill the last effort to enact “Trumpcare”
Already, the health care activists are springing into action. Indivisible, one of the biggest advocacy groups, relaunched its “Trumpcare Ten” toolkit offering instructions for how the public can call to lobby their senators in opposition to the bill. Over the next two weeks, Indivisible chapters across the country will hold at least 14 separate “Kill the Bill” protests to call public attention to Graham-Cassidy.
“The calls need to be nonstop to Senate and senate regional offices,” said Angel Padilla of Indivisible. “The last time we dealt with this, we told our groups to have sit-sins, and that’s where we are right now — using every tactic we can think of.”
Groups like the Center for Popular Democracy will begin bussing down hundreds of activists to launch direct sit-ins in the Capitol. The climax of the demonstrations will be held on Monday, a week from today, in what they hope to be the biggest wave of sit-ins in offices in the Russell Senate Office Building targeting potential swing votes on the bill.
The purpose of the activism rests on the assumption that Republican senators may be responsive to public pressure. That may be a debatable premise, given that the Republican Senate got within one vote of passing a “skinny repeal” bill amid a wave of activism against the bill. But activists counter that Republicans initially planned on repealing Obamacare by last February, and pinpoint the public pressure as the reason they’ve been delayed for so long.
“Republicans know from their experience that publicity about their health care plan hurts their cause — that’s why you don’t see any rallies in favor of ACA repeal,” said Ben Wikler, of MoveOn.org. “We have to sound the alarm.”
Democratic senators plan to help push this last-ditch effort into the news
This weekend, at least three Democratic senators called organizers in left-wing activist circles. “Their message was: ‘This is a live grenade, and this deadline is lighting a fire under Republicans — and we need it to light a fire under us too,” said one of the activists on the call.
During the health care debate this June, some activists and Senate Democrats clashed over whether the caucus was doing enough to call attention to the GOP health bill. Activists say that they’re seeing a different story this time around, noting that virtually every Senate Democrat spent the weekend and much of Monday tweeting about the GOP health bill.
“When Democrats really sounded the alarm in late June, that was the moment the repeal fight really hit the front pages,” galvanizing public opposition to the bill, Wikler said. “The Senate Democrats are 100 percent on this and have an extremely keen sense of the threat level.”