U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders used his appearance in Charleston Sunday night to urge fellow Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., to vote against what he called a “barbaric and immoral” health care bill proposed by Senate leadership last week.
Nearly 2,000 people came out to see Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, at the Protect Our Health Care Rally in the Charleston Municipal Auditorium. He was joined by dozens of activists, organizers, faith leaders and community members.
“It turns out that the legislation that is coming before the Senate in a few days, the so-called health care bill, will be the most devastating attack on the working class of this country in the modern history of the United States of America,” Sanders said. “This legislation will cause devastating, unprecedented harm to millions of people in my state, in your state and all across the country.”
The Senate is expected to vote this week on the Better Care Reconciliation Act, a bill that is similar to one the House of Representatives previously passed to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
“Sen. Capito is continuing to review and working to improve the health care legislation released last week,” said Ashley Berrang, a Capito spokeswoman, Sunday night. “She welcomes and appreciates the perspectives of West Virginians as this process continues.”
The Senate’s bill will repeal the ACA’s individual mandate to purchase health insurance and will end Medicaid expansion in a few years, among other provisions.
Opponents of the bill — including five Republican senators — say they will not support the legislation due to its cuts to the Medicaid expansion and because the bill was drafted by a handful of senators behind closed doors.
“We will not allow 23 million Americans to be thrown off of the health insurance they currently have in order to give $500 billion in tax breaks to the top 2 percent, the insurance companies and drug companies,” Sanders said. “You don’t have a health care bill by throwing off millions of people off health insurance.”
The rally was hosted by Move On Civic Action, a progressive political organization, as well as more than a dozen other organizations including Planned Parenthood South Atlantic, West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, West Virginians for Affordable Health Care, Our Children Our Future, Organizing for Action, the ACLU, West Virginia Citizen Action Group, Wood County Indivisible, West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy, WV Free, Kanawha Valley Democratic Socialists of America, Rise Up WV, and West Virginia Women’s March.
Sanders, along with representatives from each group, urged Capito to vote against the bill.
Several groups sent postcards, made phone calls, protested and sent videos urging Capito to vote against the Senate’s bill. Organizers also planned a rally at 12:30 p.m. today outside of Capito’s Charleston office.
“Sen. Capito, this legislation would do devastating harm to West Virginia and the people of the United States. This is a barbaric and immoral piece of legislation,” Sanders said. “Right now, nobody knows whether this bill will pass or fail. It will come down to a handful of votes. I believe that if Sen. Capito votes no, this bill will in fact go down. If she votes no, the Republicans likely will not have the votes to pass this disastrous legislation.”
Sanders said the bill would do the most harm to children with special needs, the elderly, veterans, women who rely on health care services from Planned Parenthood and those suffering from opioid and heroin addictions.
“Today, Medicaid pays for about 45 percent of all addiction treatment in the state of West Virginia,” Sanders said. “If you cut Medicaid by $800 billion over a 10-year period, it will mean up to 27,000 people in West Virginia would not get the treatment they desperately need to deal with their addiction.
“A truly great nation is judged by how it treats its weakest and most vulnerable people amongst us.”
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this week before it enters into recess for the July 4 holiday.
Staff Writer Jake Zuckerman contributed to this report.
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