Feb. 6, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

High-Stakes Bill Mobilizes Broad Swath of Interests

Douglas Graham/Roll Call
Conservative tea party activists hold a protest in Upper Senate Park on Tuesday to urge Members of Congress to stop a health care reform package.

With the final showdown over health care reform looming, conservative activists Tuesday descended on Capitol Hill to press lawmakers to spike the measure while medical stakeholders worked behind the scenes to protect their interests.

Disgruntled voters who have aligned with the tea party movement gathered in a park across from the Capitol to express their anger that the House may shortly consider a bill they view as a hostile government takeover of the health care system.

Shouting “kill the bill” and waving signs such as “Stop being a Democrat, Start being an American,” the crowd cheered on a parade of Republican lawmakers who at times employed colorful language to denounce the bill.

“I don’t want to make you sick, but I brought an abortion to show you here today,” Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said as he held up a copy of the health care bill. Gohmert claimed the measure included three ways in which abortion can be federally funded. “There are a lot of demons around here apparently.”

Democrats have said the Senate version of the bill, which the House will take up, segregates insurance payments so that no money would be used for abortions. The House and Senate are also expected to vote on a reconciliation measure that includes changes to the Senate bill. But that measure can only include budget-related items and is not expected to include any abortion language.

Nevertheless, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who urged the protesters “to rise up” and “storm this city,” alleged the bill would fund both abortions and health care coverage for undocumented immigrants.

“This is about liberty. They are seeking to nationalize your body,” King said.

As activists protested outside, some health care interests were seeking to ensure that the provisions they had successfully fought for in the legislation would not be significantly altered through the reconciliation process.

Officials with the American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging were working Tuesday to fend off any possible changes to a provision that would provide insurance for adults who become disabled and seniors with chronic illnesses. The provision known as the CLASS (Community Living Assistance Services and Supports) Act is included in the Senate bill.

Tonya Speed, a lobbyist for the AAHSA, said the group was “shoring up support” in the House for the Senate bill, including participating in an event on Capitol Hill with Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday afternoon.

Other groups, such as the Catholic Health Association, which represents Catholic hospitals, were not only trying to ensure passage of the Senate bill but were also making sure reconciliation included what they said were needed legislative fixes to the bill.

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