Sounding off on health care
Kati McFarland of Springdale speaks Saturday during a health care rally at the state Capitol in Little Rock. Rallies were held around the country Saturday in response to Friday’s health-care action taken by the Senate.
A day after a yearslong effort to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act collapsed on Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump castigated Republican senators for their inability to pass legislation.
In a series of Twitter posts Saturday, Trump scolded Congress and threatened to cut lawmakers’ health insurance.
“They look like fools,” Trump wrote Saturday morning on Twitter. He also renewed his demand that the Senate abolish the filibuster rule, a parliamentary delay tactic that requires 60 votes to overcome, despite the fact that the rule had nothing to do with the health care bill’s failure Friday.
“Republican Senate must get rid of 60 vote NOW! It is killing the R Party, allows 8 Dems to control country. 200 Bills sit in Senate. A JOKE!” he wrote.
Trump’s tweets against the filibuster kicked off early Friday, a few hours after three Republican senators joined every Democrat in the Senate to sink the GOP’s last-ditch effort to overturn the Affordable Care Act.
Republicans control 52 seats in the Senate. A proposal last week to repeal portions of the health care law required a simple 51-vote majority to pass. Trump acknowledged that “parts of health care could pass at 51” votes, but added that “so many great future bills & budgets need 60 votes.”
He demanded that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., eliminate the filibuster — despite the fact that McConnell dismissed the idea when Trump raised it months ago.
McConnell changed the filibuster rules to allow all presidential nominees to be confirmed by a simple majority, and he extended that to allow Neil Gorsuch, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, to be confirmed as well.
But historically, and facing increasingly narrow elections that can flip control of the Senate every few years, most senators have opposed permanently jettisoning the rule that allows the minority party to indefinitely obstruct something that has majority support. McConnell has made it clear that he doesn’t support such a move, as have other members of the Republican caucus.
Trump wrote that Republican senators “look like fools and are just wasting time,” and will “NEVER win” until they kill the rule.
On Saturday, Trump predicted “many great Republican bills will never pass,” including health care legislation.
A few hours later, Trump escalated his attack on lawmakers by taking aim at their own health care plans. “If a new HealthCare Bill is not approved quickly, BAILOUTS for Insurance Companies and BAILOUTS for Members of Congress will end very soon!” he wrote on Twitter.
The president has sought for months to end federal subsidies for insurance markets. And as recently as Friday, staunch conservatives have demanded the end of a special subsidy for House and Senate lawmakers, and their staffs, through a District of Columbia insurance exchange, instead of a system specifically for federal employees.
In a statement Saturday, Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., the minority leader, said health care costs would rise for millions of Americans if the federal subsidy for insurance markets is scrapped.
“The president ought to stop playing politics with people’s lives and health care, start leading and finally begin acting presidential,” Schumer said.
Several left-leaning groups organized the “Our Lives on the Line” protests in dozens of cities across the country, with the flagship protest in the District of Columbia.
Addressing hundreds of people at the D.C. rally Saturday evening, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called on Americans to continue pressing for the updating and improvement of the Affordable Care Act.
Exhorting her listeners not to be satisfied with last week’s Senate action, Pelosi, D-Calif., urged them to keep the pressure on.
What had developed through the lobbying against the Republicans’ plans, she said, is a widely shared belief “that health care is a right for all, not a privilege for just a few.”
“We have to improve and update the Affordable Care Act,” she said. Moreover, she said, “We want to do so in a bipartisan way.”
That, she said, could be done only “with your continued involvement.”
In Little Rock, about 40 Arkansans rallied on the steps of the state Capitol on Saturday. Though the Affordable Care Act was not repealed, they expressed concern that all of Arkansas’ congressional leaders in Washington have voted to do repeal it.
People from across the state held signs and miniature American flags, cheering and chanting as state representatives and activists spoke.
State Rep. Vivian Flowers, D-Pine Bluff, spoke, calling for Trump to be held accountable on his promise that no one would lose their health care.
“We dodged a big bullet this week, and for a lot of people it may as well have been a literal bullet,” said state Rep. Clarke Tucker, D-Little Rock, said. Information for this article was contributed by Avi Selk, Perry Stein, Ellie Silverman and Clarence Williams of The Washington Post; by Maggie Haberman
of The New York Times; and by
Rachel Herzog of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
People in Annapolis, Md., listen to speakers Saturday during the Annapolis Rally for Healthcare at Lawyer’s Mall.