As Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) was winding down his 20-hour seizure of the Senate, arguing for a measure that would shut down the federal government unless funding was killed for implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) suggested that the Tea Party Texan might just be doing the Democrats a favor with his epic speech.
Designed to resemble a filibuster, Cruz’s speech—which ended around noon Wednesday, just before the Senate began the voting process to move forward a stopgap spending measure known as a continuing resolution (CR)—in fact did nothing to delay the vote, earning it the Twitter hashtag
#fauxlibuster. Over the course of his oratory, Cruz equated people with pre-existing conditions to houses that had burned down, and compared Republicans who failed to stand with him to Nazi appeasers. And then there was his reading of Green Eggs and Ham.
When the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed the CR earlier this week, it included a measure that would defund the federal health-care program. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) plans to strip the defunding provision from the bill in Wednesday’s Senate vote, before sending it back to the House. If the two chambers do not agree on the final bill, the government could be forced to shut down for lack of operating funds.
At a press conference on the benefits of Obamacare to pregnant women, new mothers, and children, RH Reality Check asked Stabenow to respond to the opposition Cruz stated on the floor on Tuesday night to provisions in the ACA that forbid insurers to deny coverage to those who have a “pre-existing condition.”
“I wish we had money to pay for ads,” Stabenow said with a smile in response to a question from RH Reality Check. “I’d like to take what he said on the floor and make sure that every American had the opportunity to hear it.”
Stabenow, who sits on the Subcommittee on Health Care of the Senate Finance Committee, served as emcee for a press event staged by most of the women senators in the Democratic caucus on Wednesday. She
was surrounded by mothers holding babies, several women in white doctors’ coats, and at least one pregnant woman, in addition to her fellow senators.
“We, as Democratic women, have stood here before,” Stabenow said. “In April of 2011, House Republicans took us to the brink of another government shutdown, over what? Women’s health care.”
In 2011, House Republicans threatened to stop funding the federal government if funding for subsidized pap tests and other women’s health care provided under Title X was provided to Planned Parenthood health clinics.
At Wednesday’s press conference, the point the women senators sought to make is that before the passage of the Affordable Care Act, women who were pregnant were systematically rejected when attempting to purchase health insurance, the pregnancy classified as a “pre-existing condition.” Stabenow brought a young mother, Fran Faircloth, to the podium
, a baby in her arms, to tell the story of how she found herself without insurance when she graduated law school and was in the early stages of pregnancy.
When the baby started to fuss, Faircloth’s husband stepped forward to take the baby from the podium, and someone remarked, “That’s sexy.”
Another young mother and small-business owner told of how her Blue Cross coverage wouldn’t even pick up the tab for her prenatal testing because she had opted for a home birth attended by licensed midwives.
“When it comes to reaching out to the women of America, I can’t imagine who in the Republican Party is actually thinking this strategy [to shut down the government] is a good idea,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), chairman of the Senate Budget Committee. “Maybe it’s the same guys who made the ad with Uncle Sam in the examining room,” she said, referring to a video by Generation Opportunity, a group linked to the billionaire Koch brothers, that is designed to frighten young people from purchasing health insurance under the rules of the ACA. The ad shows a creepy looking Uncle Sam figure standing between the legs of a young woman on an examining table with her feet in stirrups.
“Maybe it was the guys who thought rape was a great campaign message,” Murray continued, presumably referring to failed 2012 Senate candidates Todd Akin (R-MO) and Richard Mourdock (R-IN).
“Maybe it was the guys who thought that blocking millions of women from getting protection under the Violence Against Women Act was a way to get back in women’s good graces,” she said, referring to the 22 Senate Republicans, Cruz among them, and the 138 House Republicans who voted against renewing the law, which passed both chambers earlier this year.
Some senators spoke of how other provisions of Obamacare benefited women and young children. Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) told the story of a child in Baltimore who died of what could have been a simply treated oral infection, because the child’s family could not afford dental care. The ACA would prevent such tragedies, she said.
Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), who was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer during a gubernatorial run in 2000, said she received a letter of encouragement to stay in the race from a single mother with breast cancer who had taken a second job in order to pay her medical bills.
Speaking of a health-care plan similar to the ACA already in place in her home state of Massachusetts, Sen. Elizabeth Warren said she knew Obamacare would work as her state’s plan had succeeded.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) expressed frustration at the many measures on which the Senate has yet to act, while time was being taken up with the theatrics over Obamacare. Those include the farm bill, the immigration bill, and a budget bill, which, she said, the Republicans have refused to work out in conference committee. “In the end,” she said, “we aren’t playing these games.”
Other senators at the event included Tammy Baldwin (WI), Mazie Hirono (HI), Claire McCaskill (MO), and Jeanne Shaheen (NH). Stabenow read a statement from Sen. Mary Landrieu (LA), who did not attend.