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

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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