Tea Party activists rallied on the Capitol grounds Wednesday to support Capitol Hill conservatives fighting to block the American Health Care Act crafted by Speaker Paul Ryan (R.-Wis.) to rescue the insurance companies while preserving President Barack Obama’s 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
“Do you remember when we were here in 2009?” asked Adam Brandon, the executive director of Freedom Works, the Washington-based policy and logistics hub for Tea Party and conservative volunteers and operatives. “Gee, I distinctly remember the topic back then was stopping Obamacare, right?” The event was called “Storm Congress” and it is part of an ongoing FreedomWorks effort to repeal Obamacare.
Brandon said then the rallies became about repealing and replacing Obamacare. “We are at the 5-yard line; the game is not over. We’ve got to score–this is our time to repeal Obamacare.”
The day after what passes for a major snowstorm in Washington, the activists held signs and cheered despite the 20-miles-per-hour winds that made the 30-degree temperature feel much colder than that. After the rally, the activists broke up into teams and visited congressmen and senators that have not yet committed to voting against the RyanCare bill.
In the last session of Congress, every Republican congressman and senator voted for a clean repeal of Obamacare sponsored by Rep. Tom Price (R.-Ga.), then chairman of the House Budget Committee and now the head of the Department of Health and Human Services. Conservatives expected that bill to be brought up again as the first step to reforming national healthcare policy. Instead, the speaker crafted his own version, which instead of repealing PPACA amends it make it easier for insurance companies to operate under the surviving Obamacare regime.
Ryan’s battle plan is to present Republicans with a “binary choice” and dare them to vote against the only repeal bill he is willing to bring to the House floor for a vote.
It is a strategy that has worked for Ryan and the House leadership in the past, but only because Democrats were brought in to make up for the conservative defectors. This time, the Democrats are eager to hand Ryan a big defeat, in order to show their base that they are committed to resisting the Republican hegemony.
When Sen. Rand Paul (R.-Ky.) addressed the crowd, he said this is just the beginning of the battle, not the end, as the White House and Republican leaders work on changing the RyanCare bill.
“I promise you, they wouldn’t bother to negotiate until they discover they don’t have the votes,” he said. “More importantly, when they discover they do not have your votes.”
Paul said the RyanCare bill is a betrayal of the promises Republicans made on the campaign trail in 2010, 2012, 2014 , and 2016.
“We were not campaigning for Obamacare-lite,” he said.
They needed to tell their representatives they are standing firm in their resistance to the speaker’s RyanCare bill, he said.
“Tell them they have to bring down the Paul Ryan plan,” he said. “What we want is freedom and we want to be free of Obamacare.
In addition to Paul, other speakers included Sen. Ted Cruz (R.-Texas), members of the House Freedom Caucus, the leader of Tea Party Patriots Jenny Beth Martin, and XMSirius Radio host Andrew Wilkow, who was the master of ceremonies for the event, which was also carried live on Wilkow’s Patriot Channel The Wilkow Majority show.
— Andrew Wilkow (@WilkowMajority) March 15, 2017
Cruz told the crowd he was optimistic and energized.
“We have the opportunity to do an enormous amount of good,” he said. “Now, we could screw it up. We could very easily screw it up. But I believe that we are poised to be the most productive Congress in decades.”
The most important item on the agenda for Capitol Hill conservatives is delivering on promises made on healthcare reform, he said. “We must honor our promise and repeal Obamacare.”