Activists at the sit-ins will call for a “no” vote on the Senate bill, which nearly got a vote last week. Protesters plan to show up at Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office in Lexington, Kentucky, as well as the offices of Dean Heller of Nevada, Jeff Flake of Arizona, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, among others. Heller and Murkowski have both voiced concerns over the bill, and Heller and Flake are considered politically vulnerable in the 2018 midterm elections.
There will also be rallies. Over the weekend, Sanders will convene protests in Kentucky and West Virginia, where the Vermont senator plans to call on his Republican colleague Shelley Moore Capito to oppose her party’s bill.
The efforts of activists have already paid off, to some extent, by generating some press. “At parades and protests, GOP lawmakers get earful about healthcare,” read a Washington Post headline Tuesday. “Senate Republicans Lie Low on the Fourth, or Face Single-Minded Pressure,” read another from The New York Times.
Maine Senator Susan Collins, who announced her opposition to the bill’s initial iteration last week, heard from constituents while marching in an Independence Day parade. In an interview with the Post, Collins described what they told her: “I heard, over and over again, encouragement for my stand against the current version of the Senate and House health-care bills. People were thanking me, over and over again. ‘Thank you, Susan!’ Stay strong, Susan!’”
But the health-care fight has been just one part of recent hectic news cycles. Just over a week ago, McConnell announced that a vote on his chamber’s bill would be delayed until after the July 4 recess. Since then, coverage of the GOP health-care push has been largely overshadowed by the Trump-press feud and North Korea. As Republicans gear up to try once more to pass the legislation, other news could similarly take attention away from activists' campaign.
Democrats and progressive activists know first-hand that setbacks on the bill won’t necessarily lead to a collapse. In March, House Republicans failed to secure enough votes for their own version of the legislation following heated protests in their home states. But after some retooling, and at a time when many activists thought there was no longer any imminent potential for passage, they passed it in May.
“I’m sure Donald Trump is going to wake up every day trying to figure out tweets that will distract from this health-care bill, and we can’t let that happen,” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said in a brief interview at the Capitol last week, after McConnell announced the vote would be delayed.
McConnell has a narrow margin of error in the Senate, and can only afford two defections from Republican lawmakers. He’s attempting to pass the bill through a process known as reconciliation, which requires just 50 votes. While activists work to protest the bill, Republican leadership is reportedly lobbying members in an effort to secure the necessary votes.