It may be U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey’s Fourth of July recess, but his constituents aren’t playing.
Harrisburg police arrested six people Wednesday night outside the studios of ABC 27 News, where the Pennsylvania Republican was conducting a town hall, PennLive reported. They were a few of the more than 100 people who gathered to protest the GOP bill to replace the Affordable Care Act that Toomey helped write.
Similar protests and rallies are taking place across the state — including today in Pittsburgh.
Health care professionals and people who depend on the ACA will speak in Market Square at noon as part of an open-air town hall sponsored by the Pennsylvania Health Access Network. You can watch here:
That action began at 8 a.m. today and will end at 4 p.m., as attendees make their way over to Toomey’s Downtown office. There, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and Socialist Alternative Pittsburgh will host a rally and die-in.
Toomey’s spokesperson Steve Kelly previously told The Incline in a statement that the senator “has noted numerous times that any Senate health care bill will ensure no one will lose their federal Medicaid eligibility, and no one currently covered by Obamacare will have the rug pulled out from under them.”
Today’s protests follow an all-day vigil outside Toomey’s Pittsburgh office in late June, where people with health problems and disabilities shared their stories. That included Libby Powers, a member of Pittsburgh’s Consumer Health Coalition with spina bifada, who talked about how she relies on Medicaid to leave her home.
Sally Jo Snyder, director of Advocacy & Consumer Engagement for that group, told The Incline the vigil is just one piece of a strategy that includes meeting with congressional and state elected officials and writing letters to the editor.
“It’s so fluid,” Snyder said of the GOP’s efforts to repeal and replace the ACA. While she isn’t sure exactly what will happen, Snyder said she knows next week — when Congress reconvenes — will be critical.
Part of the coalition’s ongoing work is education about what Medicaid is — and isn’t. “It’s not shitty insurance for people who are poor,” she said. Vigils like the one outside Toomey’s office put “a face on who receives Medicaid,” she said: people with disabilities, children and the elderly.
Should the Senate pass the GOP health care bill, “it’s all hands on deck to go after the reps,” Snyder said. Democrat Mike Doyle was the only representative from Southwest Pa. to vote against the American Health Care Act.
The coalition has already attempted to apply pressure to local reps like Tim Murphy and Keith Rothfus by speaking at events like Mondays with Murphy.
But it’s equally important to reach out to state elected officials, Snyder said. Powers was actually contacted by Rothfus after meeting with state Rep. Mark Mustio, according to Snyder. Victories like that help keep the coalition’s advocacy base motivated, Snyder said. And that’s key for an obvious reason.
“This battle gets long and weary,” she said.