Wheelchair Sports Camp MC Kalyn Heffernan and seven other members of the disability rights group ADAPT have begun a sit-in at Cory Gardner's office, today, June 27. The group is demanding that the Republican senator vote against the GOP-led health-care bill that would replace President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act. The new measure was slated to be voted on this week. During the sit-in, the Senate announced the vote would be delayed until after July 4.
"We're here to make sure [Gardner] votes no on this super-violent bill that's going to slash all of our Medicaid and eventually kill us like they want to," Heffernan says.
ADAPT, which has a long history of successfully advocating for accessibility, has been petitioning Gardner's office for weeks, pushing him to vote "no" on the repeal. Thus far, he has not committed one way or the other — even in the wake of the Congressional Budget Office's report that 22 million would be uninsured by 2026, as the New York Times reported, a number that has given other Republicans, including senators Susan Collins and Rand Paul, pause.
Heffernan says activists and journalists are not being allowed in or out of Gardner's office. But the group plans to stay put until he commits to vote against the Republican-led repeal or they are arrested.
ADAPT members have been arrested protesting at Gardner's office before; court dates for those actions start in July, says Dawn Russell, one of the activists participating in the sit-in.
"What does he want out of this bill that is enough to kill old people and cripples?" asks Russell.
For Heffernan, ADAPT's demands are simple: "We know what we want: healthcare and the right to live... All of us rely on these services and still have a hard time getting these services. Without them, we're doomed."
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Gardner's staff was not immediately available for comment. We will update this story if and when they respond.
"We still ain't leavin' till we get a commitment to a 'no' vote," Heffernan says.
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Update June 27, 2017, 2:54: Heffernan reports that police have entered Gardner's office and accused the activists of trespassing. Activists are out of their wheelchairs and are on the floor, in an act of civil disobedience.
Update June 27, 2017, 10:45: Heffernan reports that the activists will stay in Gardner's office over night.