More than 200 members of the disability rights group ADAPT forced lawmakers to delay their hearing on the latest Republican attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act on Monday. Protesters started lining up outside the hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building at 6:00am; the hearing was not scheduled to begin until 2:00pm.
The Graham-Cassidy hearing is the hottest ticket in town, in one video: pic.twitter.com/y4prO1DA5C— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) September 25, 2017
Organizers estimated that about 100 people were arrested by Capitol Hill police, who had formed their own line outside the hearing room Monday morning.
Staggering # of Capitol Police now arriving on scene. Rows of officers cordon crowd— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) September 25, 2017
Activist: "I hope there isn't any real crime somewhere" pic.twitter.com/NenJM6O0fy
The national organization tweeted throughout the morning as protesters waited for the hearing to begin. Demonstrators had traveled from all over the country to demand that senators vote against the bill, which would end cost-sharing subsidies that make healthcare premiums affordable for lower-income Americans, and cut federal funds for states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA.
These would be replaced by block grants, which the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has called "inadequate," adding at the bill "would cause many millions of people to lose coverage, radically restructure and deeply cut Medicaid, eliminate or weaken protections for people with pre-existing conditions, and increase out-of-pocket costs for individual market consumers."
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office was expected to release their analysis of the bill's economic impact Monday afternoon, but did not have time to determine the coverage losses that would result from the bill's passage, before the Senate's Saturday voting deadline. The Brookings Institution estimated that like Republicans' previous attempts to repeal the ACA, the Graham-Cassidy bill would eliminate coverage for 32 million Americans over the next decade.
The Senate Finance Committee hearing, led by chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and featuring testimonies by the bill's co-sponsors, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), was held to consider the bill along with changes made to it over the weekend, particularly extra funds that were included in the legislation for Maine, Alaska, Kentucky, Arizona, and Texas -- all states with senators who have expressed doubts about the proposal.
While waiting for the hearing room to open, protesters shared with reporters their reasons for protesting Graham-Cassidy.
Adapt activists from Wisconsin woke up at 430am today to get to Dirksen on time o pic.twitter.com/HiGeNh7UqU— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) September 25, 2017
ADAPT reported shortly before the hearing's scheduled start time that police were not allowing people in wheelchairs into the hearing room.
Over 200 disabled people got up at 4:30 to be here for this life and death hearing and only 7 are allowed in. #ADAPTandRESIST— NationalADAPT (@NationalADAPT) September 25, 2017
Protests chants erupting in Dirksen outside hearing as activists (I think) are learning how few will get in pic.twitter.com/eUAkHU3QSy— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) September 25, 2017
Hatch delayed the hearing as dozens of protesters entered the room, and Capitol police officers began arresting people. Amid the pandemonium, Cassidy was seen yawning.
Bill Cassidy is literally yawning as protestors are carried away. pic.twitter.com/TqINKjrLx6— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) September 25, 2017
David Wittie of Texas says he's been charged w/ "Interfering w/ a police officer" - which "means I was blocking door" as PD made arrests pic.twitter.com/T3dbOofuIm— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) September 25, 2017
I've been covering health care activism from day one and this is a sight that is still hard to make sense of pic.twitter.com/gFaR6V0yHv— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) September 25, 2017
This is Colleen of ADAPT.— Jeff Stein (@JStein_Vox) September 25, 2017
I have no idea what this country is supposed to be pic.twitter.com/de86rRuLiM
As news of the arrests spread, many expressed support for ADAPT on social media.
So proud of all #ADAPTandRESIST protesters. It takes a specific kind of disgusting to ignore disabled people on healthcare. Listen to them.— nazis are bad (@jogwr) September 25, 2017