Disability advocates continue sit-in at Cory Gardner's office over healthcare bill, won't be removed

DENVER – A group of advocates, many of whom who are disabled, continue to protest at U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner’s office nearly 24 hours after they took up residency to demand the Republican senator from Colorado vote against the Senate health care bill.

Many of the protesters are from ADAPT/Atlantis Community, Inc., a Denver-based group whose efforts are usually focused on increasing accessibility for disabled people on public transit systems.

The protesters first took up residence in Gardner’s Denver office Tuesday afternoon, just hours after Senate Republicans decided not to try and vote on the Senate’s version of the bill, the Better Care Reconciliation Act of 2017.

The office is in a large office building that also houses several other businesses. Police showed up to the office Tuesday evening for several hours, but never removed any of the protesters, who ended up staying overnight and remained there Wednesday afternoon.

Organizers have said they will stay at the office until Gardner commits to not vote for the bill, which would decimate Medicaid, a health care program utilized by many disabled people, across the country.

“While the vote on the BCRA is not happening this week, reports are clear the bill had not been pulled, and the GOP caucus is trying to appease their members that think the bill does not cut enough,” one of the participants, Carrie Ann Lucas, said. “Keep up the calls to Sen. Gardner to demand he vote no on the BCRA, and not sacrifice Coloradans’ health care to give a tax break to the wealthy.”

Lucas and others have been streaming the sit-in live on Facebook on and off since the sit-in began.

And it appears as though they will remain in Gardner’s office as long as they can, as Gardner’s office says they’ve asked police and security not to remove any of the protesters from the office.

Staffers stayed with the protesters in the office overnight, as that ensured security would not remove the protesters, Gardner’s spokesman, Casey Contres, told Denver7.

“We continue to do everything we can to make sure the individuals in the office are comfortable and have the medical attention necessary,” Contres said.

He added that Gardner’s state director for Colorado had visited the office to talk about the health care legislation with the people sitting in.

“The organization currently in the office has spoken to Sen. Gardner several times and are in constant contact with his healthcare policy staff regarding requested reforms to our healthcare system,” Contres said. “Sen. Gardner wants the constituents that are in his office to have quality healthcare. 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.”

Both of the House and Senate bills Republicans have crafted in recent months to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act—something many Republicans, including Gardner, have campaigned on in recent years—would make large cuts to Medicaid and force more than 22 million people currently with insurance off it.

Gardner has been particularly targeted by groups in Colorado, as he is a Republican in a state that expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and hundreds of thousands would be expected to lose that coverage sometime in the next 10 years under both the House and Senate bills.

Both Republicans and Democrats have called for changes to the Affordable Care Act, but the pathway to getting there differs greatly between parties. Senate Republicans all-but shut out Democrats while crafting their bill, and there were zero Democratic votes in favor of the House bill when it passed that chamber.

But as the impasse reaches a peak in the Senate after a handful of Republicans—specifically those from states that expanded Medicaid under the ACA—said they wouldn’t even vote the bill onto the full floor for discussion, representatives from both parties have slowly started to acknowledge that the two parties needed to work together to fix the ACA.

But exactly what happens to the Senate bill over the remainder of the week, then after the July 4 recess, remains unknown.

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