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On Trumpcare, activists couldn't sway Rep. Lamborn. But what about Sen. Gardner? 

AHCA angst

click to enlarge Activists gathered to vent, console and conspire. - RYAN BARRY
  • Ryan Barry
  • Activists gathered to vent, console and conspire.

On May 4, residents of Colorado's Fifth Congressional District stormed U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn's local office, urging him to vote "no" on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), House Republicans' bill to "repeal and replace" Obamacare. It was a last ditch effort to speak out on behalf of Medicaid enrollees, veterans, women and others whose health care would be jeopardized under the plan.

A demonstration organizer, Sherrie Smith, told the Indy that her husband, an Iraq War veteran with worsening neck and back injuries, could face even longer wait times if millions more vets are unwillingly funneled into the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) system by an AHCA provision denying tax credits to people who are eligible for government health care. "Last time he made an appointment in December and didn't get in until the end of March," she said. "Some people die waiting for appointments. So what's going to happen when even more people need appointments and no one's doing anything to fix it?"

Before the AHCA vote, Smith had talked to a Lamborn staffer who assured her the Congressman would correct the bill text. Instead, he and other Republicans insist that an IRS rule will still exempt veterans from the tax credit limit. Problem is, that rule is tied to Obamacare which, by their own description, would be repealed if AHCA becomes law. Democrats and veterans groups, like Paralyzed Veterans of America and VoteVet, share Smith's interpretation of the drafting technicality.

So when Smith visited Lamborn's office again, she was mad. "I flipped out and stormed out," she says. "They lied to my face."

Lamborn, on the other hand, bragged about the bill's passage. "With this vote, we have ended the individual mandate, blocked federal funding from going to Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers, phased out Medicaid expansion, reduced regulations and taxes, and gutted Obamacare," he said in a statement.

But the bill's far from law: It still has to pass the Senate (and, most likely, a joint committee and the House again) before heading to the White House. Senate Republicans have indicated they won't rush to a vote like their counterparts in the House did. Aside from Senate Republicans' insistence on restraint and rigor in policymaking, they also face a procedural challenge in that they only have a 52-48 majority — enough to pass the bill by simple majority with only minor tax and spending tweaks, but not to make any major policy adjustments through reconciliation with Democrats.

That puts moderate Senate Republicans from purple states — like our own Sen. Cory Gardner — in a precarious position. His stance on the bill has been characteristically tough to pin down. Denver's alt-weekly, Westword, detailed some of the Senator's mixed signals on the matter, including his signature on a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell decrying AHCA's approach to Medicaid and his Facebook posts harping on the evils of Obamacare.

To get through to their Senator, who's up for re-election in 2020, locals held a "Say No to Trumpcare" rally on Sunday, May 7. Organizers estimate some 150 people showed up.

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