As GOP Senators struggled to find enough support for the latest Republican plan to overhaul the Obama health law, dozens of demonstrators were arrested Monday after disrupting a U.S. Senate hearing on the Graham-Cassidy proposal, as the clock ticked to a September 30 deadline for action under special expedited budget procedures in Congress.
“I’m here because Obamacare is a disaster in my state,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who for now is still a few votes short on his plan to change the way the Obama health law works, by sending money directly to the states, allowing them to best figure out how to cover those who need health coverage.
But the legislative effort seemed to be doomed, as Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced on Monday evening that she would oppose the last-ditch GOP effort on health care.
“The fact that a new version of this bill was released the very week we are supposed to vote compounds the problem,” Collins said in a written statement.
Earlier in the day, demonstrators made clear their opposition to the plan at a Senate hearing.
“No cuts to Medicaid; save our liberty,” chanted protesters at the Senate Finance Committee, some of whom were in wheelchairs, as they were taken outside for processing by police.
At the hearing – the only one scheduled on the Graham-Cassidy bill, which was still being changed on Monday morning – Democrats again zeroed in on how the GOP health bill would impact those Americans with pre-existing medical conditions.
“It doesn’t protect them,” testified Dick Woodruff, a top official with the American Cancer Society.
“It basically makes the patient protections that were enacted into law with the Affordable Care Act discretionary on the part of each state,” Woodruff added, contradicting the explanation from Republican supporters.
Democrats complained that Republicans were trying to jam a bill through Congress that had not been fully vetted – and was still being tweaked.
“We got a third version last night at 7:30,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), “and we got a fourth version last night at 7:50, and then we got a fifth version at 9:23 in the morning.”
But as the Senate convened on Monday, it still wasn’t clear when the Senate might vote on the plan this week, as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly thanked GOP lawmakers who have worked on health care.
“If Obamacare’s failure has shown us anything, it’s that we need new ideas and a better approach,” McConnell said.
But the Senate GOP leader was silent – for now – on when a vote on a GOP plan might take place.