Arkansans Plan Civil Disobedience In Washington D.C. Over Healthcare Repeal Bid

Jul 17, 2017

U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton (left to right).

More than a dozen Arkansans have been arrested so far this month demonstrating against attempts by Republicans to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act and that number stands to grow. On Monday at 5 p.m. about a dozen Arkansans are gathering in Little Rock to head to Washington D.C. in a bid to keep up the pressure.

The U.S. Senate was expected to hold a vote this week following a Congressional Budget Office score but both have been delayed. Arizona Senator John McCain is recovering from surgery.

A release from Arkansas Community Organization says most of the group making the trek to the nation’s Capitol “intends to commit civil disobedience.” Changes to Medicaid are of particular interest to demonstrators. The Republican plan would drop federal support for Medicaid expansion by 30 percent.

The drop would trigger the end of Medicaid expansion in Arkansas. The program has provided insurance to over 300,000 low-income Arkansans. Governor Asa Hutchinson has given mixed reviews to the plan by his fellow Republicans in the U.S. Senate.

Arkansas’s two U.S. Senators, John Boozman and Tom Cotton have not stated a position on healthcare legislation since the first attempt was rolled out last month. They are some of the only Senators in the nation unable to come to a decision or unwilling to let their stance be known. Senator Cotton was part of a working group of 13 Republican Senators that helped craft the initial plan.

Shannon Simons volunteers with the citizen-led group, Ozark Indivisible. She’s a teacher in her day job.

“We can call but you never know if the intern put down the correct response or if the message will get to a Senator. But by demonstrating and getting out and letting our voices be heard our Senators will be forced to hear, there’s a lot of opposition to this,” says Simons.

While a group is heading to Washington, Simons says to expect action at home as well, “We plan on having people stream in and out of both Senator Boozman’s and Senator Cotton’s offices throughout the state on Tuesday.”

During a foreign policy speech on Monday, Senator Cotton addressed Senator McCain's medical absence by wishing him well. 

"I was as startled as any of you to learn about his hasty surgery over the weekend but also as grateful as any of you to hear about the prediction of a full recovery," said Cotton. "In the meantime I guess that means I'll have to start raising twice as much hell in the Senate as I normally do, to make up for Senator McCain's absence."