The Comey circus marched into town last Thursday, and unlike other modern circuses, this one had plenty of elephants. There were elephants (as well as donkeys) on the senate panel, elephants as the subjects of the inquiry, even the proverbial elephant in the room (is it time for John McCain to retire?). I was riveted to the video stream as Mr. Comey made one significant statement after another.
But I couldn’t help thinking it was all a distraction. Because in another room in Washington, there was another group of senators hidden from public view who are getting close to finishing a bill to dismantle the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). This bill would not make our healthcare more accessible or affordable. It is a cynical ploy that will take away health insurance from millions of Americans to pay for a tax break for a handful of millionaires and billionaires. As of this writing, I do not know the extent to which the bill will take away insurance from poor and middle-class people. But the latest deal seems to include a seven-year phaseout of the Obamacare Medicaid expansion that would affect 14.4 million people. Most of them would become uninsured.
Now don’t get me wrong. I would love to know if President Trump obstructed justice. I would love to know if any of his cohort have engaged in criminal activities. Or if they aided Russia in its attempt to influence last year’s presidential election. I do want the current investigations to produce some results. But the current Congress is not going to impeach Mr. Trump, and nothing we do right now will affect that outcome.
That’s why the circus is a bit of a distraction from the real horror we need to be addressing. If I ask myself, what can I do now, this month, that will have the most effect, it would be to fight the potential loss of Obamacare.
The Senate will be going on a break around Independence Day. And Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wants to get a vote on this bill before then. That’s because if senators have not yet voted on it when they go home for their break, they are going to get an earful from angry constituents. So we need to give them an earful now.
Here in California we are blessed with two senators who will vote against the repeal of Obamacare. So it’s not critical to call their offices on this issue. But there are states whose senators are more sensitive to pressure. Some states with Republican senators have accepted the Medicare expansion under Obamacare. The constituents of these senators have the most to lose. According to The Huffington Post, there are 20 Republican senators from 14 states that have accepted federal funding to expand Medicaid. These senators are particularly vulnerable to pressure from constituents. (I’ve listed them at the end of this post.)
So what can you do? If you live in one of these critical states, call your senators. Voice your strong opposition to any rollback of the Affordable Care Act. If you don’t live in one of those states, contact anybody you know who lives there, and ask them to call their senators. You can search for friends on Facebook by typing in “Friends in Arizona” for example. Contact them personally; don’t post a Facebook comment or tweet your request. When they call, they should ask to speak with the senator’s legislative assistant for health. They should be specific in their objections. Indivisible makes these suggestions for specific requests:
Demand hearings with experts and careful consideration of the impacts on all facets of American society, not just the rich who benefit from tax breaks.
Demand that all members of the Senate, not just an all male working group, are allowed to participate in debate and offer amendments. This includes Democrats.
Demand that your Senators propose a piece of legislation that provides equal or better access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare as the Affordable Care Act does.
The Comey circus has been a bright shiny object that is hard to look away from. But the elephant march can go on without our input for a while. Let’s you and I focus on the quiet danger lurking behind closed doors.
MedicaidEnrollment_3.png. Digital image. Huffington Post. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 June 2017.
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