Protesters in wheelchairs interrupted Monday’s U.S. Senate hearing on the Republican health-care bill aimed at repealing and replacing “Obamacare.”
“No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty!” they shouted at the Senate finance committee meeting.
The noisy protests forced committee chairman Orrin Hatch to recess the hearing just moments after it began.
Hatch told the protesters, “If you want a hearing, you better shut up!” His complaint was to no avail as the protests continued. So Hatch then shut down the hearing, saying it would resume when order was restored.
Police lugged some demonstrators out of the hearing room and trundled out others in wheelchairs.
The hearing comes as Senate Republicans pursue a last-ditch effort to pass legislation to tear down former president Barack Obama’s health-care law. Prospects for the bill are uncertain as a decisive handful of Republicans remain opposed to the measure by senators Lindsey Graham and Bill Cassidy.
They appear to be short of votes ahead of a make-or-break deadline at the end of this week.
“We don’t have the support for it,” Hatch, of Utah, told reporters.
Conservative Sen. Rand Paul, of Kentucky, said he’d not abandoned his previously announced opposition to the measure, despite the revisions and energetic lobbying by President Donald Trump and White House officials. He complained that the bill spent too much and said Republicans were motivated by fear of punishment by conservative voters if they didn’t succeed.
“It’s like a kidney stone: pass it, pass it, pass it,” Paul told reporters.
McCain, Paul oppose bill
The electricity in the room captured the high stakes as the two parties battle over whether to defend or obliterate Obama’s 2010 overhaul of the U.S. health system. Three July failures by Republicans to push earlier bills through the Senate led Democrats to rejoice and infuriated conservatives, prompting Trump to repeatedly savage Republican senators who blocked the party’s years-old goal of repeal.
The Cassidy-Graham measure would end Obama’s Medicaid expansion and subsidies for consumers and ship the money — $1.2 trillion through 2026 — to states to use on health services with few constraints.
Overnight, the sponsors added billions of extra dollars…