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What now on health care?

Dear MoveOn member,

The news just broke: The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s official analysis of the health care bill passed by the House would mean that 23 million people would lose health insurance and over 53 million would lose protections for pre-existing conditions—all to pay for hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations.1

And here’s the worst part: Behind closed doors and away from the cameras, Republican lawmakers are working overtime to reshape Trumpcare into something that could actually pass the Senate and become law.

It’s critical that MoveOn members have a shared understanding of the fight ahead. Which is why we wanted to send this uncustomarily long (but important) email, laying out the state of play.

Trumpcare remains a clear and present danger. Daily revelations about Trump’s apparent obstruction of justice and ties to Russia are keeping us glued to our phones—and the GOP health care bill out of the news. Just where Republicans want it.

And just as Trump is willfully ignoring the normal procedures of the executive branch, Mitch McConnell is sidestepping the normal procedure for legislation and crafting the Senate’s version of the health care bill outside of the normal democratic process of public hearings and committee deliberations. Instead, he’s got a group of senators (all Republicans—often, men only) hammering out their bill in secret.2

The Republican goal is to keep their Trumpcare bill out of public view until they’ve got something that can squeeze through the Senate purely with GOP votes—and then suddenly rush it through a vote before the public can mobilize against it.And as they’ve demonstrated, they are willing to change rules, lock out the public, and use every legislative trick available when it serves their purposes.

It could work. Which is exactly why we have to mobilize now, before the secret deals are struck and it’s already too late.

Because the Senate Republicans are negotiating in private, the only things we know about their talks are from public statements, press leaks, and allies with their own GOP sources on Capitol Hill. Piecing those things together, here’s our sense of the current situation and the path forward:

  • Senate Republicans are divided on Medicaid cuts and pre-existing conditions.4,5 Some want big Medicaid cuts—others want huge cuts. Whichever side wins, millions of kids with disabilities, seniors in nursing homes, and working families will lose health insurance and nursing home care. But the outcomes range from bad to devastating. This is a key area of division—and an issue that we should fight on, in phone calls and town hall meetings and protests at senators’ local offices. Meanwhile, Ted Cruz and his hard-right allies might insist on attacking protections for people with pre-existing conditions, as ultraconservatives did in the House. So we can’t neglect that fight either.
  • The GOP will use next week’s Senate recess to test the public’s anger on health care. We heard from a Hill source that Senate Republicans view the upcoming congressional recess, from May 26 to June 4, as a “barometer” of public attention to and outrage about their health care plans. That makes this an absolutely crucial moment to mobilize in force and tell them not to take away our care. MoveOn members will be working with allies to promote and recruit to town halls and other in-district events—because we know that we have the power to make noise in every corner of the country.
  • Republicans plan to introduce options, or even a bill, in early June—and to vote in late June or July. In other words, we have only a matter of weeks to make sure that Republican senators come to see health care cuts as politically toxic. If we can apply enough pressure in this period to prevent them from coming to an agreement, Mitch McConnell might schedule a vote on a bill anyway—a vote they’d lose—just to get health care over with and clear the way for tax cuts.6

A decisive win might be possible. The worst outcome for Republicans (and the best outcome for us) is for GOP lawmakers to remain deadlocked on health care as the five-week August recess begins—because the hailstorm of public pressure would almost certainly drive them farther apart.

To win, we need to peel off three Republicans. Republicans are using special rules to pass their health care bill with only 50 Senate votes (plus Mike Pence as tie-breaker)—meaning that Democrats can’t filibuster. We need at least three of the 52 Republicans to oppose the bill that Mitch McConnell brings to a vote.

We’ll use targeted pressure to peel off three Republicans, tailoring our approach to each individual senator—to push them to draw bright lines that make an eventual compromise impossible. For some, the uncrossable line might be Medicaid programs for opioid addicts. For others, it might be the Medicaid expansion in the Affordable Care Act. For still others, it’s pre-existing conditions or defunding Planned Parenthood. We’re working closely with a coalition of allies to map the most critical issues to raise with each senator as the negotiations proceed.

The bottom line? Game on. Republicans are coming for our health care. But they’re divided, and we’re united—and if we turn up the heat high enough, we may be able to stop them.

In the weeks ahead, we’ll be organizing to press senators with every tactic at our disposal, from urging directly affected constituents to speak up at town halls, to flooding senators with phone calls, to organizing protests outside of their district offices. Stay tuned for opportunities to take action.

And there’s one more X-factor: Donald Trump. So far, he’s been almost completely absent from the health care debate, aside from the occasional tweet or policy action to undermine Obamacare. But the longer this fight lasts and the farther we get into his term without a “win” for him and his cronies on this priority—the more frustrated he’ll become, increasing the chances that he’ll lash out at his own party, bringing his wild and toxic rhetoric into the mix.

If we can draw out this fight and ultimately draw him in, we can be ready to take advantage of the fissures among Republicans and between the White House and Congress to shatter their plan once again.

All of this will take focus. It will take conviction. It will require protest; sometimes, the most effective protest is the simple act of publicly telling our personal stories. And it will take resources, so if you can you chip in to stop Trumpcare from passing the Senate, please help out with a $3 donation now.

Yes, I’m in! I’ll chip in now to help stop Trumpcare.

This is one of those fights that not only defines our political landscape, it defines the kind of country we live in now and in which our children will grow up. And our response to this moment defines who we are. Ultimately, we need Medicare for All—a universal program that ensures that all of us get the care we need. But today, we need to stand and defend what we’ve built so far. Lives depend on it.

Thanks for all you do.