The 3 Most Compelling Moments from the Senate’s Late Night Health Care Debate

The Senate continued its health care debate late into Thursday night, debating whether or not to strip health care from 16 million people while many Americans slept.

Before the vote on the so-called “skinny repeal bill” narrowly failed early Friday morning — with three Republicans casting votes against it — lawmakers held the floor to speak out about the legislation. Tensions were high, and senators bickered over policy and procedure.

Here are three memorable moments from the late night session:

1. When Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI), who is battling kidney cancer, pleaded with her colleagues to show her compassion.

After 11 p.m. on Thursday, Hirono took to the floor to speak out against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. In an emotional speech, she talked about losing her sister at a young age and her experience battling cancer.

“Here I am a United States senator, I am fighting kidney cancer and I’m just so grateful that I had health insurance so I could concentrate on the care that I needed rather than how the heck I was going to afford the care that was probably going to save my life,” she said.

She spoke about how when she was first diagnosed, she heard from many of her colleagues across the aisle. “You showed me your care,” she said. “You showed me your compassion. Where is that tonight?”

2. When Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) refused to take questions about the bill, less than an hour before the vote.

With the clock running down before the Senate had to vote on the GOP’s bill, introduced less than an hour earlier, Enzi held the floor and rambled on about his state and his thoughts on health care.

Democratic senators interjected more than six times, asking him if they could ask questions about the bill. Enzi said “no” each time, and instead encouraged them to read the bill.

First, he told Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND): “I will not yield for a question”. The Democrats in the chamber booed.

Then Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) asked if she could also ask a question.

“Perhaps your time would be better spent looking at the bill,” he responded, adding that the Democratic senators were too focused on process and not on substance.

“I allowed the other side to have their hour,” he said later. “I expect to have this hour, even if some of it is in silence.”

Enzi spoke until midnight.

3. When hundreds of protesters gathered outside the U.S. Capitol and chanted “kill the bill.”

While GOP senators followed through with their unorthodox and unprecedented plan to ram through a bill they wrote less than 12 hours earlier, people outside the Capitol did something that has become commonplace in Washington, D.C. this year: protest.

“Kill the bill!” protesters chanted in the dark, after the bill had finally been introduced.

According to reporters, hundreds of people from various organizations including Planned Parenthood and MoveOn were gathered as the session went on, late into the night.

When Vice President Mike Pence, on hand in case he was needed to provide the tie-breaking vote in the event of a 50–50 split, arrived at the Capitol, protesters yelled “shame!” in his direction.

This piece has been updated to reflect the news that the Senate’s repeal effort failed early Friday morning.


Reposted from ThinkProgress