LIVE: Disability rights activists sit-in at Cory Gardner’s office, 48 hours and counting

LIVE: Disability rights activists sit-in at Cory Gardner’s office, 48 hours and counting

Members of the Colorado arm of disability rights group ADAPT are occupying the lobby of Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s Denver office to demand the senator vote against the GOP Senate proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Activists began their sit-in on Tuesday morning and remained in the senator’s office overnight on Tuesday and Wednesday. They say that the Republican proposal, known as the Better Care Reconciliation Act, will be devastating to those living with disabilities and their families.

The Congressional Budget Office says that the bill would reduce projected Medicaid spending by a total of $772 billion by 2026, and that the number of people covered by Medicaid in a decade would be 15 million fewer than under Obamacare. The office also predicts that the GOP plan will reduce the number of Americans with health insurance by 22 million by 2026.

The bill has struggled to win Republican support as written. Lawmakers including Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky have said they cannot vote for the bill as-is. The Senate announced Tuesday that it will postpone its vote on the bill until after its July 4 recesss.

Gardner, who was among the 13 Republican senators who drafted the bill behind closed doors, has said in recent days that he has called for more transparency and more time to debate the bill. “It’s frustrating that instead of actually reviewing the legislative text some have decided to immediately oppose the bill before it was even introduced. This deserves serious debate, not knee-jerk reaction,” he said in a statement.

In a Facebook post Tuesday afternoon, attorney Carrie Ann Lucas, a longtime disability rights activist, wrote, “Colorado ADAPT is inside Senator Gardner’s office waiting for him to commit to vote no on the BCRA. We will stay as long as it takes.”

Lucas said via Facebook that the group stayed the night in an unairconditioned 8-by-10 ft. room after the office closed. The seven protestors were not allowed to use the facility restrooms and used urinals managed by certified nursing assistants, she said. During the night, building security granted them access to the restrooms. In the morning, Gardner’s staff locked the restrooms again upon reentering the building, Lucas said. 

This sit-in continues ADAPT’s 40-year history of protest and activism. Along with the Denver location, ADAPT is planning to take action at 20 other locations across the nation. In January, some of the same protesters participating in the current sit-in were arrested while protesting at Gardner’s offices.  Last Thursday, 43 members of ADAPT were arrested at Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office. 

According to Josh Winkler of ADAPT, members of the group have been trying to meet with Gardner for more than a year now, with no success.

The senator’s office did not return phone calls or emails from The Colorado Independent seeking comment, but a spokesman for Gardner told Fox 31 News in Denver, “We have not asked for anyone to be removed from the office. Sen. Gardner wants the constituents that were in his office today to have quality health care. He has concerns that our current system is imploding and won’t be able to provide quality care if nothing is done to fix it.”

Watch Lucas’ latest livestream of the protest below.

 

Photo and video via Carrie Ann Lucas.

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Kelsey Ray and Shruti Kaul

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