What was supposed to be a gathering to protest threatened repeal of the Affordable Care Act turned into something of a celebration Saturday as nearly 100 people showed up at a Germantown meeting hall just hours after Republican leaders in Congress shelved the controversial repeal plan.
“The resistance is winning!” City Councilwoman Helen Gym told the crowd at Germantown’s Center in the Park, which had opened its auditorium for a planned community-wide rally against the repeal, a centerpiece of Donald Trump’s successful campaign for president.
Protest organized earlier
The rally, hosted by State Rep. Stephen Kinsey (D, Phila.), was planned weeks ago as Philadelphia Democrats stepped up their campaign to stop Congressional Republicans from repealing the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which has extended medical insurance to millions of uninsured Americans.
But on Friday, after Congressional Republicans failed to muster enough votes to repeal the measure, the GOP leadership pulled the bill from consideration, a stunning blow to Trump just eight weeks into his presidency.
“We won so big [that] they didn’t even vote on it,” said State Sen. Art Haywood, a Democrat whose 4th district includes parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery counties.
Diligence still needed
“Look at what we can do,” boasted Michael Dineen, political director for U.S. Rep. Dwight Evans (D, Pa.). However, he urged the crowd to stay focused on healthcare, which may still face challenges from fiscal conservatives in Congress who want to reduce spending for Medicare, the federal health insurance program for the elderly, and Medicaid, the jointly funded state-federal medical insurance program for the poor.
“Keep strong, keep active, and keep aware,” Dineen said.
State Sen. Sharif Street (D, Phila.), who said defeat of the repeal measure indicated the power of grassroots organizing, urged the crowd to tweet out his hashtag “#NotIrrelevantYet” to show how ordinary people can make a difference when they act together.
He noted that the proposed bill repealing Obamacare would have left 24-52 million Americans who are now insured without meaningful healthcare coverage.
Majority opposed GOP plan
Despite Trump’s effort to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, a March 23 poll by Quinnipiac University found that 56 percent of American voters opposed the GOP plan to repeal Obamacare. The measure failed after moderate and conservative Republicans in the House could not agree on the specifics of a repeal measure.
Jack Groake, a representative of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey (D, Pa.), credited the American public with blocking the legislation to repeal Obamacare. “[It] failed because Pennsylvanians and millions of Americans rallied and exposed this scheme for what it was — a massive tax cut for the wealthiest at the expense of middle class families, seniors, and individuals with disabilities,” he said.
The Trump administration has now said it will move on to other campaign promises such as tax reform, but it’s not clear whether those promises can be realized without the billions of dollars in savings promised by repeal of Obamacare.