WASHINGTON, D.C. — Nearly 300 protesters stormed the the Cannon Office Building at the House of Representatives Tuesday afternoon, flooding the halls with chants of “Kill this bill, don’t kill us.”
The protesters focused on the offices of Congress members who voted yes on the GOP tax package and are vulnerable in the 2018 midterm elections. Among them: Reps. Ryan Costello (R-PA), Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Charles Dent (R-PA), John Katko (R-NY), David Reichert (R-WA), David Joyce (R-OH), and Ed Royce (R-CA).
For the majority of these protesters, storming the halls of the House building has become common practice, and many present on Tuesday were regulars at protests over the summer during Congress’ multiple failed attempts at repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. Now that a key provision of the ACA, the individual mandate, is in danger of being repealed in the Senate version of the tax bill, the activists have mobilized again to fight back.
“This is my seventh time here, its gonna be my third time arrested,” said Olga Irwin, an Ohio resident. “I’ve lived with HIV for 20 years, and before the ACA, I had a hard time affording my medicine.”
While an individual mandate repeal is currently only in the Senate plan, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has hinted he is open to including it in the final bill, as the House has voted in favor of repealing it in the past.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, repealing the individual mandate, which requires Americans be covered by health insurance or face a tax, would leave 13 million more uninsured over the next decade, saving the federal government $338 million dollars to help pay for a trillion dollar corporate tax cut. Additionally, this $1.5 trillion dollar tax proposal could trigger an automatic $25 billion dollar cut to Medicare.
“They’re punishing sick people, they’re punishing so many people and what? To give a tax break to the wealthy,” said David Kotelchuck, a New York resident who gathered at the Capitol on Tuesday to protest the repeal of the individual mandate, as well as the repeal of the state and local tax deduction (SALT), which is included in the Senate version as well.
“My formula costs $1,500 a month. My income is $1,500 a month. I am an orphaned college student. Could you afford that? Because I can’t afford that. You starve Medicare, you starve me!” pic.twitter.com/DN39jx55SJ
— Brynna Quillin (@brynnaquillin) December 5, 2017
Repealing the SALT deduction has been a point of contention for multiple Republican representatives from blue states like New York, New Jersey, and California. Residents in these high tax states would lose the ability to deduct their state and local taxes from their federal tax return.
Other protesters at the Capitol on Tuesday were there to defend smaller deductions that are on the chopping block in the House version of the tax bill.
Eddie Gomez came on behalf of his nephew, who receives funding for his medical treatments thanks to a non-profit funded by charitable donations. Under the House bill, the charitable donation deduction will be repealed, prompting some to worry that it could in turn curb donations to charities.
“A bunch of us are upset about the bill, a bunch of different aspects that don’t benefit anyone but the 1 percent,” Gomez said. “A part of this bill that doesn’t make sense to me is that charitable contributions will no longer be tax deductible and which means less giving and less support for those in need.”
Now that the House and Senate have both passed their respective tax plans, the next step requires both chambers to come together and reconcile their differences in committee, producing a final bill that they hope to get to the president’s desk by Christmas.