It’s no secret the Republican attempt to replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) with their own health care bill is deeply unpopular. Not only do the American Medical Association, more than 40 economics (including six Nobel laureates), and several GOP lawmakers all oppose the latest draft of the Senate bill, but no state in the union has voiced majority support for the effort to replace Obamacare — including deeply conservative regions.
And now, as GOP senators struggle to handle the blowback over the latest draft of their bill, they can add faith groups to the growing list of staunch opponents.
Within hours of news that the Senate bill will likely leave 22 million people uninsured over ten years, Bishop Frank Dewane, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ (USCCB) Domestic Justice and Humane Development Committee, issued a scathing critique of the Republican-led effort.
— US Catholic Bishops (@USCCB) June 26, 2017
“This moment cannot pass without comment,” he said in a statement. “The loss of affordable access for millions of people is simply unacceptable. These are real families who need and deserve health care.”
The USCCB already denounced the bill last week when it was finally unveiled, saying it would have a “detrimental impact on the poor” and declaring it “unacceptable as written.” But they have since been joined by a number of other faith groups such as Jewish advocacy group Bend the Arc — who called the bill a “moral travesty” — and the Catholic Health Association.
“Just like the House passed American Health Care Act, the Senate proposal will have a devastating impact on our nation’s most vulnerable populations,” the CHA, which represents roughly 600 Catholic hospitals around the country and supported Obamacare, said in a statement.
Other groups have been opposing the GOP effort to undo Obamacare since it began several months ago, with most lamenting how both the House and Senate bill would slash Medicaid. On June 9, a group of 34 religious organizations sent a letter to Congress begging them to keep the federal health care program intact.
— J. Herbert Nelson II (@jherbertnelson) June 25, 2017
“Access to affordable, quality health care should not and cannot be a privilege; it is a requirement rooted in faith to protect the life and dignity of every person,” the letter read in part.
The letter was signed by advocacy groups such as NETWORK — a Catholic social justice lobby — but also the Islamic Society of North America and entire religious denominations such as the Episcopal Church, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Unitarian Universalist Association, Union for Reform Judaism, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. It also included the signature of the National Council of Churches, a group that represents 38 denominations and faith communities (or roughly 45 million people).
Their message was repeated on Monday, when NETWORK head and Catholic nun Sister Simone Campbell wrote an Op-Ed in The Hill calling on conservative lawmakers to reject the bill.
“Do we have the will to put our people over yet more tax cuts for the 1 percent? As a person of faith, I say that we must,” she wrote. “It is a mandate of my faith and a call to the common good. So Senators, please, reject the so-called ‘Better Care Reconciliation Act [health care bill],’ and let’s have a real conversation that doesn’t include 23 million Americans losing their healthcare.”
Meanwhile, faith groups organized by Interfaith Healthcare Coalition are planning a 24 hour vigil to protect Medicaid later this week. Participants are expected to camp out on the Capitol lawn between the Supreme Court and the Capitol Building for the whole day, calling on Congress to protect the needy.
It’s unclear what impact faith groups will have on the GOP Senators, but it’s worth noting that religious voices have played a key role in past health care debates. President Barack Obama credits support from religious groups — especially Catholic nuns — as crucial for passing the ACA, with key endorsements coming in the final hours before the bill was passed.
And while more theologically conservative groups have not voiced opposition to the bill, they’ve remained unusually quiet. Representatives from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the National Association of Evangelicals, and Southern Baptist Convention’s political arm all either declined to comment or did not respond to requests from ThinkProgress.