Just hours before the United States Senate Republicans voted on two deeply problematic health care options, desperate protesters gathered in front of two GOP congressmen's houses in hopes of sharing coffee and opinions.
Health care activists first bused from Washington, D.C., to Sen. John Boozman's (R-Arizona) supposed place of residence in Virginia. They reportedly arrived at around 5:30 a.m. and planned to offer the congressman coffee and share health care stories from his state in what ThinkProgress reporter Amanda Michelle Gomez called "an orchestrated wake up call." Boozman has made no conclusive statements on where he stands in regard to the proposed health care bills, and so the protesters saw an opportunity for persuasion.
Approximately 50 activists gathered around the senator's home. They rang the doorbell, but no one answered. Undeterred, they took to shouting their message instead. Eventually, agitated neighbors called the police, and the activists were forced to move on to the next GOP congressman yet undecided on the senate vote: Rob Portman (R-Ohio). While Portman wrote in an amendment to the Obamacare repeal that would expand Medicaid spending by $100 billion, the activists said they don't see this as indicative of his final vote.
The GOP health care bill remains an uncomfortable mystery. The legislative process has been cagey enough to raise eyebrows and concerns, not only among Democratic lawmakers and American citizens, but among Republican lawmakers both past and present as well. All the public truly knows is that there is a vote today on legislation that, from what little they've seen, doesn't do much but hurry the sick to an earlier grave.
First, the senate voted to open the floor to debate on Obamacare. Both Portman and Boozman supported the motion, but the senate was at a draw until Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to push the debate forward.
Now, lawmakers will move on to debating different approaches to the health care bill. One option is repeal-and-replace with something worse, i.e. the recent Better Care Reconciliation Act. The other, the Obamacare Repeal Reconciliation Act, delays Obamacare repeal until 2020, presumably so that Republicans have time to bring something of actual value to the table. Neither option engenders confidence.
The pressure is certainly on for the GOP to do something and to do it quickly, but good things don't happen overnight. True, the Republican Party has had years to come up with a viable alternative to Obamacare and still have only scraps to offer, but at this point what's a few years more? If that's what it takes to change the American health care debate into one that is inclusive, just, and humane, then it is time well spent.
Banner and thumbnail credit: Flickr user Ted Eytan