The 3 Most Compelling Moments from the Senate’s Late Night Health Care Debate

Kira Lerner Political Reporter, Think Progress

The Senate continued its health care debate late into Thursday night, debating whether or not to strip health care from 16 million people while many Americans slept.

Before the vote on the so-called “skinny repeal bill” narrowly failed early Friday morning — with three Republicans casting votes against it — lawmakers held the floor to speak out about the legislation. Tensions were high, and senators bickered over policy and procedure.

Here are three memorable moments from the late night session:

1. When Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who is battling kidney cancer, pleaded with her colleagues to show her compassion.

After 11 p.m. on Thursday, Hirono took to the floor to speak out against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. In an emotional speech, she talked about losing her sister at a young age and her experience battling cancer.

“Here I am a United States senator, I am fighting kidney cancer and I’m just so grateful that I had health insurance so I could concentrate on the care that I needed rather than how the heck I was going to afford the care that was probably going to save my life,” she said.

She spoke about how when she was first diagnosed, she heard from many of her colleagues across the aisle. “You showed me your care,” she said. “You showed me your compassion. Where is that tonight?”

2. When Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) refused to take questions about the bill, less than an hour before the vote.

With the clock running down before the Senate had to vote on the GOP’s bill, introduced less than an hour earlier, Enzi held the floor and rambled on about his state and his thoughts on health care.

Democratic senators interjected more than six times, asking him if they could ask questions about the bill. Enzi said “no” each time, and instead encouraged them to read the bill.

First, he told Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND): “I will not yield for a question”. The Democrats in the chamber booed.

Then Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) asked if she could also ask a question.

“Perhaps your time would be better spent looking at the bill,” he responded, adding that the Democratic senators were too focused on process and not on substance.

“I allowed the other side to have their hour,” he said later. “I expect to have this hour, even if some of it is in silence.”

Enzi spoke until midnight.

3. When hundreds of protesters gathered outside the U.S. Capitol and chanted “kill the bill.”

While GOP senators followed through with their unorthodox and unprecedented plan to ram through a bill they wrote less than 12 hours earlier, people outside the Capitol did something that has become commonplace in Washington, D.C. this year: protest.

“Kill the bill!” protesters chanted in the dark, after the bill had finally been introduced.

According to reporters, hundreds of people from various organizations including Planned Parenthood and MoveOn were gathered as the session went on, late into the night.

When Vice President Mike Pence, on hand in case he was needed to provide the tie-breaking vote in the event of a 50–50 split, arrived at the Capitol, protesters yelled “shame!” in his direction.

This piece has been updated to reflect the news that the Senate’s repeal effort failed early Friday morning.

***

Reposted from ThinkProgress

Kira Lerner is a Political Reporter for ThinkProgress. She previously worked as a reporter covering litigation and policy for the legal newswire Law360. She has also worked as an investigative journalist with the Chicago Innocence Project where she helped develop evidence that led to the exoneration of a wrongfully convicted man from Illinois prison. A native of the Washington, D.C. area, Kira earned her bachelor's degree at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism.

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

The Big Drip

From the USW

From tumbledown bridges to decrepit roads and failing water systems, crumbling infrastructure undermines America’s safety and prosperity. In coming weeks, Union Matters will delve into this neglect and the urgent need for a rebuilding campaign that creates jobs, fuels economic growth and revitalizes communities. 

A rash of water main breaks in West Berkeley, Calif., and neighboring cities last month flooded streets and left at least 300 residents without water. Routine pressure adjustments in response to water demand likely caused more than a dozen pipes, some made of clay and more than 100 years old, to rupture.

West Berkeley’s brittle mains are not unique. Decades of neglect left aging pipes susceptible to breaks in communities across the U.S., wasting two trillion gallons of treated water each year as these systems near collapse.

Comprehensive upgrades to the nation’s crumbling water systems would stanch the flow and ensure all Americans have reliable access to clean water.

Nationwide, water main breaks increased 27 percent between 2012 and 2018, according to a Utah State University study.  

These breaks not only lead to service disruptions  but also flood out roads, topple trees and cause illness when drinking water becomes contaminated with bacteria.

The American Water Works Association estimated it will cost at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years to upgrade and expand water infrastructure.

Some local water utilities raised their rates to pay for system improvements, but that just hurts poor consumers who can’t pay the higher bills.

And while Congress allocates money for loans that utilities can use to fix portions of their deteriorating systems, that’s merely a drop in the bucket—a fraction of what agencies need for lasting improvements.

America can no longer afford a piecemeal approach to a systemic nationwide crisis. A major, sustained federal commitment to fixing aging pipes and treatment plants would create millions of construction-related jobs while ensuring all Americans have safe, affordable drinking water.

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