Republicans opposing GOP health care plan hear from voters during recess
- At least nine Republican senators expressed reservations about the GOP health care plan
- During this recess, those lawmakers in particular are hearing from their constituents
(CNN)With the Senate in recess and negotiations on the health care bill still underway, activists have been maintaining pressure on Republicans already opposed to the stalled legislation, aiming to keep them in the "no" column and prevent the majority party from obtaining the 50 votes they need.
Going into this week's holiday recess, activists were already planning to target public events and festivities on July 4 in anticipation of appearances by elected officials.
Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who opposes the current plan, said she was still a "no" while talking to reporters at a parade in Eastport, Maine, which is known as the biggest Fourth of July event in the state.
"What I've been hearing the entire recess is people telling me to be strong, that they have a lot of concerns about the health care bill in the senate, they want me to keep working on it, but they don't want me to support it in its current form," she told reporters.
While Republican leaders had hoped to vote on the bill before the holiday recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced last week the Senate would delay the vote after several GOP senators voiced serious concerns about the bill as drafted.
Collins, a center-right Republican, argued the bill would be too harmful to her constituents because of the impact of Medicaid cuts on rural populations and the elderly.
"I've found that Mainers are very well informed about the legislation, and they're deeply concerned about what it's going to mean for themselves and their neighbors," she said.
Collins added that she'll remain against the bill unless it's "dramatically changed."
Across the country, Republican Sen. Dean Heller, who's been staunchly opposed to the bill, returned to his home state of Nevada, where he faces a tough re-election bid next year.
Heller participated Tuesday in a parade in the small town of Ely, Nevada, with a population of about 4,200 people. One man urged Heller to "vote yes on that health bill" as the senator rode by on a horse.
Another Republican, Sen. Ted Cruz, faced a large group of protesters at a parade in McAllen, Texas. Speaking to CNN affiliate KVEO, Cruz said the demonstrators were an illustration of democracy at work.
"One of the great things about freedom in America is even people who disagree can speak out, and there is a small group of people on the left who, right now, are very angry," he said. "We can engage in cordial and civil debate -- that's how democracy works and that's how it's meant to work."
Cruz was one of four senators who opposed the Senate bill as written before McConnell decided to delay a vote on the legislation. He joined three other conservative Republican senators who argued the bill did not go far enough in repealing Obamacare
Meanwhile, more moderate Republicans, like Heller and Collins, opposed the bill's Medicaid cuts. By the time the Senate went into recess, the total tally of "no" Republican votes inched up to nine. McConnell can only afford to lose two Republican votes in order for his legislation to pass the chamber.
Outside Sen. Pat Toomey's office in Philadelphia, demonstrators gathered for a "Tuesdays with Toomey" protest, where several people laid down on a sidewalk holding signs in the shape of tombstones. (Toomey was largely supportive the bill when heading into recess.)
Left-leaning groups will continue to hold events, rallies, and sit-ins across the country during the remainder of the week.
Activists associated with the Health Care for America Now coalition are gathering Thursday, for example, on the Williamstown Bridge that connects Ohio and West Virginia to target two senators from the two different states -- Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio and Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. The two senators announced their opposition in a joint statement last week after the Senate decided to delay its vote.
Portman's office sent out photos of the senator meeting with constituents during the recess, as well as a description of his efforts on health care.
"In his discussions with his colleagues, Rob is working to ensure that those on expanded Medicaid continue to have good health care options under a new system, whether it's under the current Medicaid structure or affordable health care options on the private market," Portman spokeswoman Emily Benavides wrote in a statement.
There's still time for activists and voters alike to see at least a few of their senators before they head back to Washington.
Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kansas, is hosting three town-hall style events at the end of the week, and Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, is hosting a town hall specifically on health care on Friday. Both senators expressed serious reservations about the bill before recess.
Fighting back against the attacks, many Republicans have been pointing to the Democrats, asking for more cooperation in the health care battle. The Republican National Committee release a web video Wednesday arguing that Democrats have refused to come up with their own plan to fix Obamacare.
Democratic senators last week retorted saying Republican leaders in the Senate never solicited Democratic input during the behind-the-scenes crafting of the bill.