Waving posters and chanting “Free D.C.,” a crowd calling for the government to reopen on the Capitol’s East Front tried to interrupt a Senate Democratic news conference Wednesday.
Thirty-five Democratic lawmakers stood on the Capitol’s steps and reiterated their now-familiar demands to Republicans. While some of the protesters interviewed said they blamed the GOP, and not Democrats, the scene made for an awkward juxtaposition.
At one point, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray walked slowly from the site of the protest at the area known as the Senate Swamp, toward the senators. There was a brief moment of tension, because it was unclear what Gray would say or whether he intended to interrupt, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., smiled at Gray, stretched out his hand, and welcomed him onto the steps.
Leroy Thorpe, a Northwest resident and government social worker who’s lived in Washington since 1980, said he wants to see Congress reopen the government immediately. Others near him nodded in assent. “I think we need to stop the gridlock,” he said. “I think the Republicans are holding the nation hostage and hurting a lot of people.”
Democrats took the opportunity to reject the House’s so-called mini-continuing resolutions and asked for their colleagues to adopt their CR.
“The whole government needs to be open,” said Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.
The district’s sole representative in Congress also addressed the crowd of protesters, telling them that if they wanted to speak to lawmakers, they should enter the Capitol or office buildings. “I don’t think I need to tell you all what you need from senators,” Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton of the District of Columbia told the protesters. “Out here we’re talking to ourselves, but if they hear directly from you, that makes some difference.”
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The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office has released its score of the House-passed American Health Care Act, which would replace Obamacare. According to the CBO, the bill would reduce the deficit by $119 billion by 2026, while leaving 14 million more Americans uninsured in 2018 than under current law, a number swelling to 23 million by 2026. Further, insurance premiums would balloon 20 percent in 2018 and five percent in 2019 before the waiver provision in the legislation would kick in. The provision allows states to apply for waivers and permit insurers to offer skimpier plans, which would likely entice younger and healthier individuals to buy health insurance while potentially pricing older and less healthy Americans out of insurance plans. House Republicans approved this bill in late April without waiting for the CBO score.
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he doesn't yet know the formula towards gaining passage of an Obamacare replacement in the Senate. "I don't know how we get to 50 (votes) at the moment. But that's the goal," McConnell said. The House passed an Obamacare replacement bill which has been widely seen as dead on arrival in the Senate, and McConnell has put together a working group of Republican Senators working towards creating health care legislation which could gain the support of at least 50 Senators.
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