Action, Politics, Uncategorized

I called my Senators. Here’s what happened.

If you read our blog, you probably consider yourself to be part of the resistance. Some of you may have been fighting for justice for years, others may have joined the cause in response to the election of our current President. Perhaps you went to the Women’s March and/or one of the many marches that have happened since. Maybe you’re reading more news articles from more sources, tweeting more, and having more conversations with friends, family, and coworkers. All of that activity is valuable and meaningful, and we stand arm in arm with you in it. However, in light of how the GOP is handling the healthcare legislation, now is the time to raise your voice – literally.

I’ll start this piece by reminding us that what’s happening in healthcare policy right now is not normal. We know this, and we have since we were kids (look at those happy people by the train tracks. That’s us!). The public- and the rest of Congress, for that matter- is supposed to have access to information about what Congress is doing, and we should be able to hold them accountable.

It’s hard to keep track of what’s going on with Trumpcare/Wealthcare/whatever you want to call it these days for two mutually-reinforcing reasons: there’s so much smoke and noise going on elsewhere (Russia investigations, testimony, Twitter, etc.) and there’s a total lack of sunlight on the Senate version of the bill. It’s hard to focus when we don’t know what exactly there is to focus on, especially when there are some other bright and shiny  things to distract us. However, it is critical that we remain focused.

I don’t have to be the one to tell you that whatever is coming out of the Senate is likely to be similarly bad as the House bill. Knowing that things are looking grim up on Capitol Hill, I decided to call my senators. Personally, I am motivated to act by thinking back to a world before the ACA, a world in which I had to pay each month for birth control, and I am at a stage in my life where it terrifies me that pregnancy could be considered a pre-existing condition. We as a society don’t handle pregnancy well as a medical or employment issue, but that’s another post for another time. What I want you to know today is that I decided to do something about it, and I hope you can, too.

On Friday, I called my two Tennessee Senators. Here’s how it went.

Senator Bob Corker

A woman answered the phone on the first ring. I introduced myself as a Nashville constituent, and asked to hear more about Senator Corker’s position on the healthcare bill.

The staffer read a prepared statement that Senator Corker has not yet come to a decision on the bill and expressed that he is trying to remain actively involved in the writing of the bill. Additionally, Senator Corker wishes that the bill were being handled in a more public way and has expressed that thought to Senate leadership.

I have to say, I was really pleased to hear what Senator Corker said. He’s a pretty dyed-in-the-wool red guy, but it sounds like he’s at least trying to appear reasonable in all of this. I responded by saying that I was glad to hear that he was pushing for a more public process and that it seems wild to me that the bill is so secretive. I expressed hope that he would continue to push for an open process. Additionally, I reminded her that hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans would lose insurance if the bill passes, so I hope Senator Corker considers voting no on the bill on our behalf.

She said okay and that she’d pass it along (which means, hopefully, that they’re tracking how many people are calling about the bill), and we said goodbye. The whole thing was very pleasant.

Senator Lamar Alexander

The phone was answered on the first ring again, this time by a man. I introduced myself as a Nashville constituent and asked to hear more about Senator Alexander’s position on the healthcare bill.

The man offered to read Senator Alexander’s prepared statement: he wants a new bill, separate from the House bill, with four priorities.

  1. Rebuild the “collapsing ACA exchanges”
  2. Lower premiums
  3. Restructure Medicare access
  4. Protect those with pre-existing conditions

I thanked him for sharing that with me and expressed how aghast I am at the lack of transparency on the creation of this bill. He offered to pass along my concern about the process, which I appreciated and accepted. I then expressed concern about the ways that this bill will negatively affect certain populations. I said that I hope Senator Alexander considers the impact of the health care legislation on his female constituents in particular. The staffer agreed to pass my thoughts along and we said goodbye.

Make your own calls

I was nervous for these calls. My senators and I generally disagree on healthcare policy, and I wasn’t sure how the conversations would go. Each call was completely pleasant, and each call took just under 2 minutes to complete. We can all do this, and we should.

The team at Indivisible Guide has put together an amazing suite of resources to help us put on the pressure. They’ve put together sample call scripts, contact info for each senator, and helpful information about the potential bill and its impact.

Take ten minutes to review the information they’ve put together and five minutes to make two phone calls. That’s fifteen minutes total. Fifteen minutes is a small price to pay for a better bill with a better process.

While most of these resources are designed for constituents of Republican senators, everyone can (and should!) be calling their senators this week. If your senators are Democrats, call and ask for their positions and ask whether they are doing everything they can to force Republicans to do their jobs and hold hearings on this bill like they would any other.

This is a critical moment for the resistance. Charge up your phone and let’s do this!

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