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Woman attempts to drive GOP congressman off road over health-care vote, police say

Authorities say Wendi Wright, 35, tried to force a congressman’s car off the road for voting on the Republican health-care bill. (Weakley County Sheriff’s Department)
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A Tennessee woman hated that her congressman voted for the controversial Republican health-care bill in the House of Representatives, authorities said.

So Wendi L. Wright tried to run Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.) off the road after he visited the University of Tennessee at Martin, they said.

The Weakley County Sheriff’s Department said Wright tailed the car carrying Kustoff. At some point, the congressman and his aide became afraid and worried that Wright wanted to force them off the road.

They then turned into a driveway and stopped. That’s where Wright got out, screamed at the congressman and struck the windows of his vehicle, even reaching inside the car, the sheriff’s department said.

Authorities said Wright then stood in front of the vehicle to try to keep Kustoff from leaving. At some point, someone called 911, but Wright left before authorities arrived.

The incident happened on May 8, four days after House Republicans narrowly passed a bill to overhaul the country’s health-care system.

‘Nobody dies because they don’t have access to health care,’ GOP lawmaker says. He got booed.

Wright, 35, has been charged with felony reckless endangerment and was released after posting a $1,000 bond. Authorities say they found her after she posted details of the encounter with Kustoff on Facebook.

It was not immediately clear if Wright has an attorney. She will be arraigned on Monday.

Kustoff represents Tennessee’s 8th District, which covers Union City, Tenn., where Wright lives. The district borders Kentucky, Missouri and Arkansas.

Kustoff and 216 other House Republicans voted to pass the American Health Care Act to replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, on May 4.

The bill was passed hastily, with little debate and key revisions agreed upon during closed-door meetings at the White House and on Capitol Hill. At the time of the vote, the Congressional Budget Office had not analyzed the bill’s cost and impact on coverage, but the agency’s analysis of its original version that 24 million would lose insurance by 2026.

The estimate also showed that the bill would cut $880 billion from the Medicaid program over the next decade. The program provides health insurance to low-income Americans and helps pay for long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities.

Who will decide what the Senate’s health bill looks like? Follow the Medicaid-state senators.

The bill includes an amendment that would allow states to obtain a waiver so they could charge customers with preexisting conditions more than other people. Another amendment that would provide $8 billion over five years to lower premiums for those with preexisting conditions swayed some concerned moderate Republicans to support the bill, allowing the House GOP leadership to secure enough votes to pass it.

Democrats, however, say the $8 billion is not enough and those with preexisting conditions will face the choice of paying exorbitant premiums or carrying no insurance.

In a statement after voting for the bill, Kustoff said: “We promised the American people we would repeal and replace Obamacare, and today, the House voted to keep our word and provide relief. … This bill would protect and ensure access to care for those with preexisting conditions, and moreover, it will make health care more attainable with lower premiums.”

Kustoff’s office has not publicly addressed the incident.

Insurance providers in Tennessee have pulled out of the Obamacare exchange, leaving residents in 16 counties without health insurance. That’s affecting more than 1.1 million people, Kustoff’s office said, adding that premiums in Tennessee have skyrocketed to as much as 116 percent.

The health-care bill faces an uncertain future in the Senate, where negotiations are already facing obstacles. Senators have said they intended to write their own legislation.


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