Hirono takes spot­light with im­pas­sioned plea to keep Oba­macare

West Hawaii Today - - Weather - BY DAN NAKASO

U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono on Fri­day won praise for a deeply per­sonal and pas­sion­ate plea on the Se­nate floor against re­peal­ing Oba­macare in which she re­ferred to her stage 4 kid­ney can­cer di­ag­no­sis and asked her col­leagues, “Where is your com­pas­sion?”

Po­lit­i­cal pun­dits said Thurs­day night’s speech could el­e­vate Hirono’s pro­file across the coun­try and help con­gres­sional Democrats shore up Oba­macare.

“I would say that I am prob­a­bly the only se­na­tor here who was not born in a hos­pi­tal,” Hirono said in her speech. “I was born at home in ru­ral Ja­pan. I lost a sis­ter to pneu­mo­nia when she was only 2 years old in Ja­pan. She died at home. … It’s hard for me to talk about this.”

Hirono spoke of her im­mi­grant up­bring­ing in Hawaii where “my great­est fear was that my mother would get sick, and if she got sick, how were we go­ing to pay for her care? How would she go to work? And if she didn’t go to work, there would be no pay, there would be no money. I know what it’s like to run out of money at the end of the month. That was my life as an im­mi­grant here. And now, here I am a United States se­na­tor. I am fight­ing kid­ney can­cer, and I am just so grate­ful that I had health in­sur­ance.”

Hirono re­peat­edly spoke of the kind thoughts her Se­nate col­leagues of­fered in re­sponse to her can­cer di­ag­no­sis and re­peated a theme: “You showed me your care,” Hirono said. “You showed me your com­pas­sion. Where is that tonight?”

Hirono told the Honolulu StarAd­ver­tiser on Fri­day from Wash­ing­ton, D.C., that “it was hard for me in the sense that I have never talked about my sis­ter and her death. But I thought it was im­por­tant for me to tell that story and let peo­ple in our coun­try know that there are so many of us who can re­late to what they’re go­ing through.”

Hirono, 69, said she is still re­cov­er­ing from her sec­ond surgery in May for a rib re­sec­tion that she said was “more painful” than a pre­vi­ous op­er­a­tion to re­move her right kid­ney.

“I feel OK,” she said. “I’m OK enough to get back to work as I have for the last sev­eral weeks.”

She also took to Twit­ter this week in her push to de­feat the re­peal of Oba­macare.

“I learned this year that we are all one di­ag­no­sis away from a ma­jor ill­ness. My fight against can­cer fo­cused my fight against # Trump­care,” she tweeted.

On Fri­day, Democ­racy for Amer­ica, a Ver­mont­based pro­gres­sive po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee, en­dorsed Hirono fol­low­ing “her heart­felt speech ( that) helped de­rail the sev­enyear cam­paign by Se­nate Repub­li­cans to re­peal Oba­macare.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s spokesman, Neil Sroka, told the StarAd­ver­tiser that Hirono’s “emo­tion­ally pow­er­ful” speech likely will raise her po­lit­i­cal pro­file in the health care de­bate.

“It’s a per­fect ex­am­ple of some­one who doesn’t just un­der­stand peo­ple’s lives, but has lived the strug­gles of peo­ple’s lives,” Sroka said. “She has had an in­creas­ingly vis­i­ble role in the Se­nate over th­ese last six years, and I think she’s only go­ing to be­come more pow­er­ful.

Hirono

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