Despite congressional recess, few Republican senators scheduled to hold town halls
Activists are encouraging liberals to confront GOP lawmakers at home over health care
Lawmakers head home Thursday night while progressive activists ramp up campaigns to confront Republicans during next week’s holiday recess, with some planning to raise concerns about the health care bill at Fourth of July parades.
The grassroots group Indivisible is encouraging followers to make direct contact with members at festivals, fairs, parades and any other holiday events that typically draw elected officials.
Democratic Sen. Brian Schatz of Hawaii supported the idea Wednesday night at a rally outside the Capitol, saying Democrats should take a moment to celebrate the postponement of the health care vote in the Senate but then “get back on the horse” and keep up efforts to voice opposition.
“Because I tell you what, nobody wants to get yelled at at a Fourth of July parade,” Schatz said to cheers and laughter.
With few Republican senators scheduled to hold town halls, Schatz urged activists to find other ways to speak to their senators. “Whatever it is you think you can do in that moment, just do it,” he said. “It’s the thing that needs to be done.”
Angel Padilla, policy director at Indivisible, said that could look like people holdings signs and banners along a parade route or making closer connections. “Ideally, we’d want to see some of these members going directly to a senator and expressing some of their concerns,” he said.
Activists’ frustrations could be further exasperated by President Donald Trump’s tweets Thursday morning that critics are calling sexist, a perception that many activists already had of the President and brought up at town halls and protests this year.
But groups are urging supporters to make health care the priority. Democrats describe next week’s recess as a crucial time to maintain momentum against the bill, particularly that coming from GOP senators who aren’t supporting the legislation as drafted.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee is running a TV ad in West Virginia targeting Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, who came out against bill this week after Republican leadership announced the vote delay and resumed intraparty negotiations.
“It’s critical that we hold Republican senators’ feet to the fire,” said Kait Sweeney, press secretary for the PCCC. “(Senate Majority Leader Mitch) McConnell is going to use the delay to get squishy senators to vote “yes” for Medicaid cuts, and we can’t allow a bait-and-switch.”
For its part, Indivisible is targeting senators from Alaska, Arizona, Maine and Nevada who have also stated either opposition or serious concerns about the bill.
Both groups are encouraging other methods during recess such as sit-ins at senators’ offices in their home states, a tactic that activists took this week in the halls of Senate buildings, resulting in arrests.
Loud protests and confrontations have become commonplace at Republican events, with much of it focused on House Republicans as Congress spent the first part of the year debating health care. Next week marks the second time the Senate will return home this year while the bill undergoes debate in its chamber.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, argued “the far-left base is very angry” and still reeling from Hillary Clinton’s loss in November.
“It is a shame to see that anger manifest in total Democratic obstruction and resistance instead of working together productively to solve the wreckage caused by the failed policy of Obamacare,” he said.
Some Republican senators shrugged it off, seeming unfazed about potentially facing heated protests next week.
“I can’t wait to go home to Maine,” said Sen. Susan Collins.
“People can yell any way they want,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “It’s a free country.”
Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota said people at his events “have been very respectful” and doesn’t anticipate anything less next week.
“It’s the business we’re in,” said Sen. Jim Risch of Idaho.