80 arrested on Capitol Hill protesting Senate healthcare bill
Police carried out mass arrests as protesters demonstrating against the Senate healthcare bill staged sit-ins at dozens of members’ offices in multiple locations on the Hill.
Officers responded to complaints at 13 locations in the House and Senate Office Buildings on Monday afternoon and warned protesters to “cease and desist,” Capitol Police said in a statement.
Protesters were using a call-and-response “mic check” to share their personal stories, including their own pre-existing health conditions, concerned that the partial Obamacare repeal bill would be passed.
Some carried signs that read "Trumpcare = death" and "Love it, improve it, Medicare for all."
The sounds of their chants, including "Hey hey, ho ho, Trumpcare has got to go" and "Kill the bill, don't kill me" filled the office buildings and echoed down the hallways as tourists and staffers, many ushered by Capitol Police, hurried past the protesters.
When demonstrators refused to “cease and desist,” police arrested them, putting them in zip ties and removing them, sometimes dragging them away, charging them for “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding” foot traffic.
Police arrested 21 people in House office buildings, and 59 in Senate office buildings.
The protest was organized by the Center for Popular Democracy. A spokeswoman for the group told the Washington Examiner they have "been training small groups of people over the past few months in the tactic of bird-dogging."
One of the offices that protesters sat and chanted outside was that of Senator Jeff Flake (R-Arizona), who has not committed one way or the other to the Republican bill.
In a statement, Flake said he wanted to "thank everyone for coming out and sharing their stories" and would "keep those comments in mind" as he considers the bill.
At the office of Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio), staff offered water and crackers to the protesters, who chanted that "Trumpcare is like Trump University, except you die,” and threatened to "throw [Portman] on the unemployment line" if he votes for the bill.
"Rob welcomes input from all 11.5 million Ohioans who visit or call our offices," Portman's office said in a statement. "We even provide water and snacks!"
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) revealed the Senate's version of the healthcare bill at the end of last month, but has been unable to secure the requisite number of votes from within the Republican Party to ensure its passage.
A new analysis of health insurers’ financial data released on Monday found the current Affordable Care Act (ACA, better known as Obamacare) markets are “stabilizing,” and not imploding as Republican lawmakers have implied.
“Early results from 2017 suggest the individual market is stabilizing and insurers in this market are regaining profitability,” the Kaiser Family Foundation said in a study published Monday. “Insurer financial results show no sign of a market collapse.”
The study found in the first quarter of this year insurers paid out 75 percent of their premiums in claims. As a comparison, in the first quarter of 2015, 88 percent of premiums were paid out for claims.
The Trump administration and the Republican-led Congress have repeatedly raised concerns about the stability of the individual health insurance market under Obamacare.
Last week, McConnell admitted that the GOP may have to work with Democrats to support existing insurance markets if they cannot form a majority to repeal and replace Obamacare.
“If my side is unable to agree on an adequate replacement, then some kind of action with regard to the private health insurance market must occur,” McConnell said July 6 at a Rotary Club luncheon in his home state. “No action is not an alternative. We’ve got the insurance markets imploding all over the country, including in this state.”
At least a dozen Republican senators, including Flake and Portman, have publicly opposed or expressed some reservations about the healthcare bill rewrite, which forced McConnell to postpone a planned vote ahead of the 4th of July holiday recess.
The bill will fail if just three of the 52 GOP senators vote no.
The Senate version of the bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act, would eliminate Obamacare’s requirement that people prove they have health coverage, would repeal or delay billions in taxes imposed under the current law, and would make long-term deep cuts to the nation’s Medicaid program.
The dissenting Republicans argue that the cuts to Medicaid are too deep, hurting rural providers and shortchanging efforts to combat the abuse of drugs such as opioids.
House Republicans passed their own version, the American Health Care Act, in May, led by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). Votes for final passage will come after both versions are reconciled.
All eyes remain on what the Senate will attempt before the August recess begins.
President Donald Trump tweeted earlier Monday that he could not imagine Congress would leave Washington without "a beautiful new HealthCare bill fully approved and ready to go!"