As the Republican Senate leadership aims to push through a deeply unpopular healthcare bill, GOP senators across the country are spending their July 4th recess clashing with their constituents—or avoiding them.
Senators Ted Cruz of Texas, Susan Collins of Maine, and Dean Heller of Nevada were all met with impassioned protests when they arrived at Independence Day parades and gatherings on Tuesday.
Cruz had to speak over a demonstration at a July 4th ceremony in McAllen, Texas, where protesters held signs saying, "Healthcare is a human right" and "Cruzin for a Bruzin' 2018."
In an interview with the Texas Tribune, Cruz dismissed the protesters as "a small group of people on the left who right now are very angry." But with the latest polls showing only 12 percent of Americans in favor of the Better Care Reconciliation Act, also known as Trumpcare, it's clear that it's actually Cruz who represents a rapidly shrinking minority.
At a parade in Eastport, Maine, Collins was greeted by a vocal crowd imploring her to protect Medicaid by voting against the bill. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office found last month that Trumpcare would cut Medicaid spending by $772 billion and would eliminate care for 22 million Americans over the next decade. In an interview with the New York Times, Collins said of the protesters, "Never before, in the 15 times I've marched in this parade, have I had people so focused on a single issue."
Other senators whose constituents are counting on "No" votes on Trumpcare declined to appearances at July 4th events. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), whose state has the fifth-highest Medicaid enrollment in the country, released a short video on YouTube wishing West Virginians a happy holiday, but didn't meet with any of them publicly. Capito's phone lines have been inundated with calls from voters urging her not to back the bill, while demonstrators have gathered outside her office to voice their disapproval.
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Meanwhile, Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Col.) who helped write the Trumpcare bill, has not met with voters at a single live Town Hall event in 2017, and he continued the pattern on July 4th. But Colorado residents have been vocal about their views on the bill during the Senate recess, and healthcare-related protests are showing no signs of slowing down in the coming days. At least eight protests were planned for the week-long recess in Colorado, including several "Rallies to Protect Healthcare" at Gardner's offices around the state.
While Gardner and Capito appear to realize that they can't expect a warm welcome from voters, other Republicans have shown a lack of understanding about where most Americans stand on healthcare. The Indiana Republican Party attempted to gain traction on Tuesday in its effort to cast Trumpcare as a policy that will benefit most Americans. On Facebook, the party asked users to share their "horror stories" about the Affordable Care Act, also called Obamacare. "Have your premiums increased?" they asked. "Are burdensome regulations hurting your small business?"
The post received more than 7,000 comments, but the vast majority supported Obamacare.
"Instead of paying for birth control, I got it for free," wrote one user.
"My patients' families no longer have to fear medical bankruptcy, and my patients no longer face a lifetime of insurance discrimination for conditions they were born with," said a pediatrician.