“Health care is priority No. 1 right now,” said Nicole Gill, executive director of Tax March, which organized more than 100 rallies across the country on April 15. She said the health-care push represents the first instance where the leaders of recent progressive-oriented marches have joined forces
Organizers of the Jan. 21 Women’s March and the April 22 March for Science are involved, along with Indivisible, the group that has aimed to focus grass-roots progressives on influencing lawmakers; Organizing for Action, the activist group associated with former president Barack Obama; Our Revolution, born out of the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.); as well as MoveOn.org, Planned Parenthood, the Center for American Progress Action Fund and others.
“We all have represented different issues or causes, and I think it speaks to the importance of health care in our communities across the country of why this is the thing that’s going to pull us together,” Gill said.
There is one big catch for progressives: If President Trump and Republican congressional leaders have their way, the GOP health-care bill will be law by the time July 29 rolls around — and some lawmakers are suggesting Republicans stay in Washington until a bill is passed.
The House passed the American Health Care Act in May, and the Senate is now debating revisions to the bill, which the Congressional Budget Office estimated could lead to coverage for 23 million fewer Americans. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has announced his intention to have the Senate vote on the legislation by month’s end, though major internal divisions in the GOP persist, and that timeline is in doubt.
Gill acknowledged that congressional Republicans are hoping to pass a bill before the summer recess even starts and that “the situation’s not looking great.” But she said whether that happens, there will be reason for progressives to rally.
“I really don’t know that we can predict either way how this is going to turn out before recess,” she said. “Either way, what we’ve seen is since 2008, basically, there’s been a Republican-led assault on the idea of health care in this country. And whatever happens with this bill, that’s a problem.”
The summer recess, set to run from July 29 through Sept. 5, will be an important opportunity for opponents of President Trump and GOP policies — what has come to be known colloquially as “the resistance” — to render their dissatisfaction in person to Republican lawmakers at town halls, office hours and other in-district events.
The 2009 summer recess was a turning point in the Democratic push to pass the Affordable Care Act. Lawmakers across the country were accosted by activists affiliated with the nascent tea party movement, and while Democrats were able to push the ACA through less than a year later, the protests firmed up GOP opposition to the bill and set the stage for massive Democratic losses in the 2010 midterm elections.
“To some extent, the tea party did kind of write a playbook on how to engage in grass-roots activism,” Gill said. “What I think we’ve done is much different. … It is much more diverse and diffuse and grass-roots driven than anything they’ve ever done, and I think that represents our movement — that we are not easily characterized into one category or one type of person. The Resistance, so to speak, is resisting on a number of fronts and in a number of different ways, and that to me is a pretty big difference from what the tea party did.”
“People got engaged right away, and especially starting with the Women’s March,” she added. “That was definitely not a town hall. That was not protesting for media coverage. That was people who were frustrated and upset, and they took to the streets, and that has continued. I think the energy is real, and it’s not going anywhere.”