Austin protesters vote with their feet against a bill that would be disastrous for health care and a bonanza for wealth care.
AUSTIN — On Thursday, July 6, more than 200 Austinites told Texas Sen. John Cornyn to vote against the draconian Senate healthcare bill — officially titled the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA) and unofficially known as Trumpcare.
Protestors filled the sidewalk at 221 West 6th Street, where Senator Cornyn has a 15th-floor office in the Chase Bank Tower. Seven people, including the author, were arrested for blocking the sidewalk in front of Cornyn’s office.
Cornyn was among the 13 men who huddled in secret with Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell to draft this Republican answer to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). The Republican bill is disastrous for health care and a bonanza for wealth care. If passed, 22 million people will lose health insurance, according to the Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of an earlier version of the Senate bill.
The bill also slashes Medicaid funding by $772 billion over the next decades — cuts that will eliminate or degrade services to 34 million children, 11 million disabled. and seven million seniors. The bill would defund Planned Parenthood, targeting affordable services that 2.4 million women, men, and young people depend upon. Salting the wounds of the vulnerable, the bill provides a $541 billion tax break to the wealthy.
With Congress on recess, a number of groups issued a call to action. Responding to this, a coalition in Austin included the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) in Austin, Our Revolution Central Texas, the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans (TARA) Austin, Left Up to Us (a Bernie Sanders-inspired local group), ADAPT Austin (fearless advocates for disability rights) and Indivisible Austin. Similar protests and actions took place across the nation with civil disobedience in at least 22 states.
In Austin, the protest included a Stand-In action, blocking the sidewalk in front of Cornyn’s office. Seven people were arrested, including Derrick Crowe, Democratic candidate for Congressional District 21, who is running against the incumbent and climate change-denier Lamar Smith. Crowe, a member of Left Up to Us and 350.org, explained why he felt compelled to act:
In moments like this, we are called to accept new risks to save our families and neighbors.
Crowe wrote more about his decision to commit a nonviolent act of civil disobedience in a blog on his campaign site.
I was among those arrested (we were called the “No Trumpcare Seven”). My arms locked with Derrick Crowe and holding the wheelchair handle of ADAPT member Heiwa Salovitz, I was the second person put in handcuffs.
Four decades ago, I was arrested in an act of civil disobedience, protesting CIA complicity in the Chilean coup. At the age of 71, it was harder to do than I had anticipated. My shoulders have arthritis, my knees are replaced, and I get dehydrated easily. But, I felt compelled by so many stories, friends living with disability who fear losing their independence and their very lives, friends struggling with cancer diagnoses, peers faced with age-related health challenges, my children who need the security of insurance, and my grandson who does not deserve to grow up in the heartless world of Trumpcare.
Others arrested included Dave Pinkham, Robin Derton, and Shane Filiatrault. Two other women stepped forward, Sarah Goodfriend and Suzanne Bryant. In the seven-hour stint we did in detention, I learned they were the first same-sex couple married in Travis County. Their marriage on February 19, 2015, occurred before the U.S. Surpeme Court ruling. I knew their story, but I did not know them. Sarah and I were in the same police car where I learned of her cancer diagnosis. She spoke eloquently about why she felt compelled to use her relative privilege to keep Trumpcare from being the law of the land.
And all of us were indeed privileged. We were white — a distinct minority in the Travis County lock-up — and we had a lawyer. Malcolm Greenstein devoted several hours of his birthday on July 6 to getting us out of jail. He’s been doing this for a long time. In 1976, he beat us to the City Jail when several of us, holding a banner aloft, were hauled off the LBJ Auditorium stage.
DSA member Glenn Scott, who is also president of the Texas Alliance for Retired Americans (TARA) and a former union organizer, used her formidable stamina and organizing skills to transform a call for action on June 28 into a successful coalition and turnout a week later. Glenn was part of the Stand-In, but after the line was broken by the first arrests, the police didn’t arrest those who remained.
Here is why Glenn said she was protesting Trumpcare in 98-degree heat:
As a 68-year-old woman living with cancer, I’m dying-in today because the health repeal bill Senator Cornyn helped write will mean the deaths of thousands of vulnerable Texans. I call on Cornyn to vote “No” on his Dracula bill or Texans will die.
Thousands of children, new mothers, older people like me, and people with disabilities will die because of this repeal bill. It destroys healthcare. It’s a cruel trick to get money to the rich. Vote “No,” Senator and let’s get to work to provide true affordable healthcare for all Texans.
Another participant in the protest shared her heartfelt letter to Senator Cornyn. Rachel Lance spoke of her four-year-old daughter, born with Amniotic Band Syndrome, a preexisting condition from injuries en utero. Her family depends on the ACA protections to provide medical care that allows her daughter to breathe, speak, hear, and walk. Her daughter, blind in one eye, has accumulated between $100,000 and $250,000 of medical expenses every year of her life. Her letter to Cornyn said,
Texas could so weaken the meaning of “essential health benefit” as to render the term utterly hollow… A typical lifetime limit before the enactment of the ACA was between $1 million and $2 million. Senator Cornyn, [our daughter] just turned 4 and we’re at about $740,000. We’re two to three years from hitting such a cap, putting her at about 6 or 7. She’s scheduled for a couple of bone graft surgeries at around age 9. What will we do?
Cynthia Mancha of Our Revolution emceed the Cornyn action, bringing in coalition speakers and heartfelt testimony from those, like Rachel, who have the most to lose if this bill passes.
Rag Blog contributor Beverly Baker Moore spoke about her decades of struggle to have the laws of support and inclusion enforced for her son with Down Syndrome, but she went on to say what was on everyone’s mind about health care as a human right:
My daughters are well educated, have good jobs, do not live beyond their means, are not addicted or otherwise irresponsible, and devoted to the health and well being of their families. And they are scared to death for their children’s futures and talking about what countries they can move to.
Meanwhile, our basic social supports have been redefined as “entitlements” which has made me furious. I, for one, am done shrinking from this label. I say we take it back. I say, Damn straight I am entitled! I am entitled to having my basic human needs met–food, shelter, health care, education. You are entitled. Your kids are entitled. Their kids are entitled. Our children born with disabilities and serious medical problems are entitled. The people who have bought into his ignorance and support it are also entitled. And even Cornyn is entitled (but just barely).
Later in the day, after the noon event at Cornyn’s office, an even larger group of protestors mobilizaed outside the Renaissance Hotel at Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s scheduled event. No civil disobedience was planned and no arrests were made.
With no time to spare as this catastrophic bill lumbers forward in the Senate, a second mobilization is being planned for the end of July. Stay tuned for Our Lives On the Line on Saturday, July 29.
Sources for stats:
Mona Chalabi, Will losing health insurance mean more US deaths? Experts say yes | The Guardian
Senate GOP Healthcare Bill Estimated to Kill 28,600 More in U.S. Each Year & Drop 22M from Insurance | Democracy Now!
Thomas Kaplan and Robert Pear, Senate Health Bill Reels as C.B.O. Predicts 22 Million More Uninsured | The New York Times
FLASHBACK to 2008!
When the dogs came out to howl at Sen. John Cornyn
On Iraq Moratorium Day, February 15, 2008, some 50 protesters, many dressed in dog costumes or other dog-themed finery, braved a rainy Austin day to stage a theatrical action at the offices of Texas Sen. John Cornyn. The theme: “Curb Corn Dog Cornyn!” “Corn Dog” was President George W. Bush’s pet nickname for Sen. Cornyn.
Organized by Movement for a Democratic Society (MDS) — with a contingent from CodePink Austin — the demonstration was designed to shine a light on Sen. Cornyn’s reactionary record and his role as President Bush’s loyal “lap dog.”
See “Austin Protestors Curb the Corn Dawg” by Thorne Dreyer.
- Read more articles by Alice Embree on The Rag Blog.
[Rag Blog contributor Alice Embree is an editor of the book, Celebrating The Rag: Austin’s Iconic Underground Newspaper. Alice is a long-time Austin activist, organizer, and member of the Texas State Employees Union.]