There are a lot of moving parts in the story about the Republican plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. As we've previously reported, Senate leadership was unable to secure enough votes to pass the Better Care Reconciliation Act with a simple majority before the July 4 recess, as they had hoped
. Now, the Congressional Budget Office, nonpartisan legislative analysts, are busy scoring a few proposals to make the legislation more palatable to reluctant senators in both the right-wing and more moderate camps. They include provisions to better fund efforts that combat opioid addiction, allow Health Savings Accounts (glorified 401(k)s for people with high-deductible insurance plans) and keep some Obamacare taxes on the wealthy in place.
reports that a vote is likely in two weeks.
Until then, Senate Republicans have some soul-searching to do, especially in the wake of vehement protests nationwide. Adding some numbers to their calculations, Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, surveyed voters in three states with potentially vulnerable senators, including our own Sen. Cory Gardner here in Colorado, about the legislation. Nearly 900 randomly selected Colorado voters were asked their opinions between June 30-July 1. Notable among the results are that 80 percent of respondents said health care is either "very important" or "the most important" issue to consider when deciding who they'll vote for in the 2018 midterms. Fifty-nine percent disapprove of the U.S. Senate's current repeal and replace plan. 14 percent weren't sure about it. Sixty-seven percent were reportedly "very concerned" about coverage losses, particularly for Medicaid patients. Asked specifically about Sen. Gardner, 59 percent said he ought to focus on improving Obamacare instead of dismantling it.
Here are the full results.
Constituents have been trying to communicate their discontent to the senator. His reception is questionable. Rather than meet with the 10 or so disability rights activists who staked out his Denver office for days, Sen. Gardner had them forcibly removed and arrested
. Locally, constituents have held a "filibuster" in his office and multiple rallies outside. Candi Frank, who was a part of the attempted "heat-out" we reported on
(in which the office apparently cut the air conditioning to the area protesters were staged in), says she's been trying to get through to her representative for six months now. "The local offices tell us to call D.C. and D.C. tells us to call the local offices," she tells the Indy
via email, adding that dozens of emails and voicemails have yielded no response. "I'm frustrated because we have been trying for six months to get Gardner to hold a town hall, or even to comment on the questions that are important to us, and cannot even get a straight answer," Frank continued. "If he refuses to hold a town hall or talk about healthcare, I ask that he just say so, and stop giving his constituents the runaround."
Meanwhile, the El Paso County Republican Party wants to preserve its members' line of communication with their senator. In an email blast, party secretary Kit Roupe encouraged Republicans to express their support for a "yes" vote, even if they have trouble getting through.
"You may be frustrated trying to reach Senator Cory Gardner," the email begins. "The Democrats are targeting Gardner very aggressively. They have occupied his Denver office for two days, refusing to leave. They have had his phones jammed with auto dial, so as soon as staff hang up, it rings again, and the staff resorts to voice mail."
Don't be deterred, she urged. "We encourage your patience, understanding, and if you can, that you send an email to Senator Gardner expressing your support. To email the Senator
. As an alternative, his Facebook page
," Roupe signed off, "May you and your family have a wonderful 4th of July!"
Local Iraq War veteran Alan Pitts doesn't appreciate when patriotic sentiment is attached to policies that exclude vulnerable Americans. To that point, he held a small press conference outside the senator's downtown office on Thursday, still brittle from recent back surgery (his third) for wartime injuries.
"On Tuesday we celebrated the Fourth of July, and it’s that basic value of not leaving people behind — that’s what makes me proud to be American," he said. "Without that spirit of common loyalty, I wouldn’t be alive today. And yet, right now, our president and his enablers in Congress are trying to pass a bill that would leave millions of people behind. And I’m here today because we need to hear from Sen. Gardner, loud and clear, that he stands with the people of Colorado — and not with Donald Trump — when it comes to that sacred duty of taking care of our fellow Americans."
Pitts, who's part of Common Defense, a liberal-leaning political action committee (PAC) that organizes and lobbies on behalf of military veterans and their families, says he asked to meet with Gardner while he's home for recess, but was told the senator didn't have time.
So, just what has Sen. Gardner been up to during this break from legislative duties?
The New York Times reports:
"Mr. Gardner’s Fourth of July was devoid of public events, though on July 3, he could be seen on his front lawn in his hometown, Yuma, playing with squirt guns and smoke bombs with his children."
Lawmakers are scheduled to resume work in D.C. on Monday.