HARTFORD, CT — Young and old braved the chilly temperatures Sunday to rally against Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
The state Capitol Police put the number of people at more than 500 who rallied on the north steps of the state Capitol in Hartford with members of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation to voice their support for Obamacare.
Republicans took a significant first step in repealing it last week when both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives voted to approve a budget resolution that would lead to the 2010 law’s dismantling.
U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, played a major role in helping organize similar rallies with Democrats in Congress across the country Sunday. The former presidential candidate reportedly spoke before thousands Sunday at a rally in Michigan, a state that President-elect Donald Trump won.
Sanders has been pushing his party to mobilize millions of Americans to help convince his Republican colleagues to back off plans to repeal the law, which has helped 20 million Americans obtain insurance coverage.
“I see no alternative to direct action and creative non-violence to raise a conscience of a nation,” U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy said quoting Martin Luther King Jr. at the rally in Hartford. “Are you ready for direct action? Are you ready to raise a conscience of a nation?”
The crowd cheered.
What does direct action look like?
“It means that over the next few months you need to take over the internet,” Murphy told the crowd. “You need to take over Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat. You need to be everywhere.”
Murphy said he knows the ACA isn’t perfect, but dismantling it isn’t the answer.
“For seven years we’ve been listening to Republicans in Congress tell us that they’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act and then replace it with something else,” Murphy said. “Well now this lie is exposed. They are not going to replace the Affordable Care Act with anything. They’re going to repeal the Affordable Care Act and nothing.”
As the crowd booed, Murphy said they are going to “rip healthcare away from millions of Americans just to prove a political point.”
Jonathan Miller, 26, of Meriden, said he would be bankrupt or dead without the Affordable Care Act.
“It’s not anybody’s place to decide who is entitled to get healthcare and who isn’t,” Miller, who was born with cystic fibrosis, said.
Miller said he didn’t come to the rally Sunday to talk about his condition, which requires him to take 15 to 20 medications on a daily basis.
“I’m tough, I can take it,” Miller said.
But illness can can strike anyone at anytime.
His message to lawmakers intent on repealing the ACA: “You’re not just going to hurt people, you’re going to kill people. It’s not made up. I wish it were. It’s not hyperbole. And you can bet it’s not fake news.”
Miller said he’s someone who likes to compromise, but he can’t do that right now because his life is on the line and Republicans seem to be “making it up” as they go along.
“I can’t accept that,” Miller said.
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who was just re-elected to a second term, said there’s no way Republicans can repeal the law and fail to replace it.
“There is no way to keep faith with America,” Blumenthal said. “There’s no way they can repeal the Affordable Care Act without creating a public health crisis.”
He said it’s also a “declaration of war on women’s healthcare.”
Under the Affordable Care Act, insurance companies are not allowed to discriminate against women by denying them insurance or hiking their premiums, just because they are women.
There’s also provisions that require insurance plans to keep adult children under the age of 26 on their parents health insurance policy, whether it’s through the exchange or employer sponsored insurance.
“If they repeal, they will repent. They will have to apologize to the American people for an irresponsible action that literally may mean the difference between life and death.”
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said the Connecticut delegation in the House has voted 60 times against Republican efforts to repeal the ACA. He said the delegation has defended the 2010 law for years, but they no longer have President Barack Obama in the White House to veto those repeal efforts.
Courtney said they will have to make sure the voices of their constituents are heard after Jan. 20 when Trump is sworn into office.
While many Democrats are dismayed and angry at the current situation, Courtney said he believes they can stop this repeal effort from moving forward.
Courtney said that on the opening day of this year’s congressional session the Republican majority put forward a proposal to eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics. Within 24 hours, he said, after external pressure and the outrage across the country, “they completely caved and surrendered,” Courtney said.
Courtney said mobilizing against repeal will make a difference.
Connecticut Republican Party Chairman JR Romano said Democrats wouldn’t have done so poorly last November if that was the case.
“There is no question that Obamacare was poorly crafted legislation and it has negatively impacted about 85 percent of Americans,” Romano said. “They can protest all they want. If Obamacare was working Democratswould not have list so many seats. It’s their denial of how bad things are that angers the average voter.”