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Opponents Prepare for Week of Fighting Obamacare Repeal

Activists plan marches and rallies, smaller groups focus on individual lawmakers

Protesters yell “Shame!” to members of Congress on the East Front of the Capitol after the House passed the Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill in May.. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Protesters yell “Shame!” to members of Congress on the East Front of the Capitol after the House passed the Republicans’ Obamacare repeal bill in May.. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Fresh off of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ weekend of rallies opposing the Republican health care bill, opponents are gearing up for a week of protests.

Republican leadership wants a vote on the bill before Congress leaves at the end of the week for its Fourth of July recess, but some GOP senators are doubtful that’s going to happen.

Sanders drew large crowds in Charleston, W. Va., Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburg, Penn., rallies co-hosted with MoveOn, where he railed against the Senate bill, saying it “takes from working families, takes from the sick, takes from the children, takes from the elderly, takes from the poor, in order to give huge tax breaks to people who don’t need them.”

Ben Wikler, MoveOn’s Washington director, said more is planned for the week.

“We’re flooding every Republican with phone calls,” Wikler said, with an aim of 30 to 50 calls per hour. MoveOn has teams of volunteers texting constituents in states with Republican senators, reminding them to make calls.

Wikler said GOP senators could expect protests and actions at their state and D.C. offices. “MoveOn is working closely with groups like Planned Parenthood and Indivisible to organize protests, visits, and vigils at Republican offices,” he said, “and big gatherings outside the Capitol.”

The Democratic Socialists of America, an organization that has seen its membership triple over the last year, is holding daily rallies Monday through Thursday to oppose the Republican health bill, but also “to advocate for a single-payer, Medicare for All healthcare system.” Single-payer, supported by Sanders, has increasingly become a goal of the Democratic Party’s progressive wing and activists to the left of the party, though Democratic leadership remains skeptical of the idea.

“Democratic Socialists of America chapters are fighting for Medicare-for-All type legislation across the country, especially in states such as California, New York, and Pennsylvania,” said David Duhalde, deputy director of the organization, “We know that we can’t get universal coverage without a public mass movement that can both defeat Trumpcare and move Democratic politicians to abandon market-based policy in favor of healthcare cover for everyone — regardless of wealth.”

Major cities had their own protest plans, including efforts in Philadelphia to target Sen. Pat Toomey with protests and phone calls, and protests in Chicago.

Smaller groups were organizing on social media to protest in front of Republican lawmakers’ district offices. And activists from the group WERK for Your Health plan a “Queer Dance Party” in front of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Washington residence

Protests broke out last week as the draft of the Senate bill was released, and included a “die-in” at McConnell’s Capitol Hill office, doctors and nurses protesting in San Francisco, and confrontations with Republican senators at Reagan National Airport in Washington.

As for Democrats, Wikler said that while it seems like they are “unified and focused,” on fighting the bill at the moment, “If we see any hesitation, we’ll be in their ear about it.”