The resistance movement could still kill Trumpcare

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As the Senate opens debate, constituents are ramping up pressure.

Capitol Hill police officers prepare to arrest a group protesting the Republican healthcare bill outside the offices of Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, July 17, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

Senate Republicans voted Tuesday to move forward with some form of a health care bill, starting the clock on a period in which lawmakers will hold a number of votes and feign debate while they wait for Mitch McConnell to introduce an official bill.

Until that bill is introduced — likely on Friday — constituents have a key opportunity to influence their representatives. That’s why advocacy groups say this week is an important test of the resistance movement.

“The next 24 hours are critical,” Topher Spiro, the vice president for health policy at the Center for American Progress, tweeted Tuesday afternoon (ThinkProgress is an editorially independent news outlet of the Center for American Progress). “The public blowback must be immediate and overwhelming.”

Constituents are holding protests and rallies at the U.S. Capitol, at their lawmakers’ offices across the country, and at officials’ Washington, D.C. homes. They’re phone banking, calling voters in states with critical senators, and urging them to show up and speak out. And they’re flooding senators’ voicemail boxes with messages.

“We’re working together to build a movement and to amass public support for health care as a human right,” said Emma Schoenberg, a grassroots organizer with the Vermont-based Rights and Democracy. Schoenberg said she was one of 33 people arrested for staging a protest in the Senate gallery on Tuesday as the vote on the motion to proceed began.

Zack Berger, an internal medicine physician at Johns Hopkins University and the founder of MDs Against Trump, was also arrested for protesting Tuesday’s vote.

“It’s for the sake of my patients,” he told ThinkProgress about why he participated in the protest that got him charged with a misdemeanor. He said that the rushed nature of the vote made him even more inclined to show up to oppose it.

“I know it’s not Schoolhouse Rock simple, but if you want to debate a bill, you propose it and then debate it,” he said. “You don’t pass a motion to proceed if you don’t know what it is.”

Ezra Levin, a co-founder of the Indivisible Guide, said that constituent efforts like Schoenberg and Berger’s this week will be critical to keeping Obamacare intact.

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When the Senate voted on the original Obamacare replacement bill on Tuesday night — one of a number of symbolic votes the Senate will take this week — the bill failed. Nine Republican senators including Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bob Corker (R-TN), Tom Cotton (R-AR), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Mike Lee (R-UT), and Dean Heller (R-NV) voted against it.

This week, those lawmakers are targets of their constituents, who see an opening to convince them to vote against any form of an Obamacare replacement that may be proposed this week.

Voters in states with Democratic senators are also trying to do their part. Indivisible launched an online tool that connects blue state residents on the phone with people in states with critical senators. Since the tool launched around 5p.m. Tuesday, people have made more 12,000 calls to constituents in Nevada and West Virginia, according to Indivisible Press Manager Helen Kalla.

And Wednesday evening, Planned Parenthood will hold a rally at the Capitol. “It is the most unpopular bill in decades,” the organization wrote. “Because we’ve called, rallied, and made our voices heard, we’ve been able to delay Trumpcare. But the threat to our health care remains.”

The resistance movement killed the Republican health care bill

Last week, when Sens. Moran and Lee came out against Trumpcare, it appeared that the bill was dead. But like the companion legislation in the House, the Senate resurrected the bill this week after a GOP meeting with President Trump and a plan to potentially vote on a “skinny repeal.”

Many credited the bill’s death last week, though short-lived, to the efforts of constituents, including Kansas voters who attended Moran’s town hall during the July 4th recess.

“From day one, from January, there’s been nonstop pressure on members of Congress to oppose this bill,” Indivisible Policy Director Angel Padilla told ThinkProgress last week. “We would not be here if not for the grassroots.”

Schoenberg told ThinkProgress that her group has sent activists to the Capitol for the past two to three weeks, but this week is especially important.

“Every single time, it’s been like, ‘This is the one that’s going to put it to bed forever!’” she said. “It’s been very clear that this is the zombie bill that will not die. At this point, we came down because this was the moment.”

The resistance movement could still kill Trumpcare was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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