WASHINGTON — U.S. Capitol Police arrested dozens of protesters objecting to cuts to Medicaid in the Senate Republicans’ health care bill.
Around 11:30 a.m. Thursday, disability rights activists staged a planned “die-in” in the Russell Senate Office Building, located a block away from the Capitol. The demonstrators filled the hallway outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Many of the protesters got out of their wheelchairs and blocked the hallway – an unlawful act, the Capitol Police noted. Capitol Police arrested 43 demonstrators after officers warned them they could not block the hallway, said police spokeswoman Eva Malecki.
The 15 men and 28 women are charged with crowding, obstructing and incommoding, Malecki said. Capitol police did not immediately return WTOP’s inquiries about which groups the protesters represented.
Alison Barkoff — director of advocacy for the Center for Public Representation — helped organize the protest. She says the protesters rely on Medicaid to help them live and she says the health bill amounts to “tax cuts for the wealthy on the backs of people with disabilities.”
Senate Republicans released their long-awaited bill Thursday to dismantle much of Barack Obama’s health care law, proposing to cut Medicaid and erase tax boosts that helped Obama finance his expansion of coverage.
The bill would phase out the extra money Obama’s law provides to states that have expanded coverage under the federal-state Medicaid program for low-income people.
Beginning in 2020, the Senate measure would also limit the federal funds states get each year for Medicaid. The program currently gives states all the money needed to cover eligible recipients and procedures.
The measure encountered immediate trouble as four GOP senators said they opposed it but were open to negotiations.
The Associated Press contributed to this report from Washington.