Lemmon sighed and shook his head. “This one really does tear at the heartstrings,” he said in a softer tone.
In contrast, opponents will largely concentrate their firepower on one major demonstration. These groups — including an assortment of tea-party-affiliated and conservative organizations such as 60 plus, the Eagle Forum and Tea Party Patriots in addition to Americans for Prosperity — have chosen to hold their event in a park near the Senate. And they have scheduled it for the second day of hearings, a Tuesday, when more members of Congress are likely to be in town.
Although there will be a rally the Saturday before, organizers such as Stefano are working hardest to bus in activists from nearby states to attend the Tuesday event. Afterward, they plan to fan out across the Capitol complex, stopping by their representatives’ and senators’ offices to deliver the message in person.
A onetime local television news reporter who worked for her father’s small family-owned business before becoming a stay-at-home mother to two sons, Stefano, 37, said she has always held staunchly conservative views.
But she didn’t become politically active until the spring after President Obama’s 2008 election, when she stumbled upon a large tea party gathering in a park near her home.
An outgoing, warm woman, she speaks fast and peppers her conversations with expressions such as “hard-core!” and “sweet!”
Rising quickly from volunteer to paid staffer, she said she is motivated by a determination to help defeat a president who she says “looks down on us” and to repeal a health-care law she says is a dangerously sweeping and intrusive expansion of federal power.
Stefano said she is outraged by the law’s mandate that virtually all Americans obtain insurance or pay a tax penalty. And she fears it will impose a crushing burden on businesses by requiring many of them to provide their employees with health insurance or pay stiff penalties if even one of those workers ends up needing federal subsidies to buy insurance on their own.
Like Lemmon, over the past several weeks Stefano has been consumed with preparing for the Supreme Court hearings. She has spent hours on the phone, coordinating bus schedules and catering arrangements. She has crisscrossed the state to speak at meetings of other like-minded organizations in hopes of recruiting additional marchers.
Still on her agenda: Finding earpieces that the riders on her buses can connect to their cellphones so they can call members of Congress, en route to Washington — effectively turning the buses into mobile phone-bank operations.
And earlier this week, at a meeting of about 50 members of a tea party group gathered at the public library in Quakertown, Stefano floated her latest idea: After the rally, why not have all the women in the Pennsylvania delegation march to the office of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)?
It would be a sort of agitprop to parallel the unofficial hearing that House Democrats held for Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke, after Republicans excluded her from offering congressional testimony about the administration’s birth-control coverage rule with an otherwise all-male panel, Stefano said.
“We all need to march in solidarity . . . and ask [Pelosi], since she’s so concerned about women, to let us testify, yeah? . . . Are we going sisters?”
The crowd erupted in whoops and cheers.