Your Senators are headed home from June 30 to July 9. This may be our last, best chance to make sure they understand how important it is to their constituents that they #ProtectOurCare. Below, you’ll find all the info and resources you need to make an impact.
Part I. Background
The vote on the Republican “health care” bill has been delayed. The bill is still alive.
Senators are preparing to vote on the disastrous “Better Care Reconciliation Act” (BCRA), which proposes to dismantle the entire health care infrastructure and our social safety net. This is the Senate version of the House “American Health Care Act” (AHCA). Specifically, in the BCRA: Medicaid, women’s health services, and care for seniors, children, people with pre-existing conditions–including HIV, pregnancy, surviving sexual assault and even asthma–are under attack! All to pay for huge tax cuts for corporations and tax breaks for the very richest. The Washington Post just reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell plans to submit a new version of the bill to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) by this Friday, June 30, which they will try to vote on just after the July recess.
We need to make sure all our Senators understand:
- We do not support dismantling health care and the social safety net!
- No Medicaid cuts or caps are acceptable!
- No attacks on Planned Parenthood are acceptable!
- Our communities depend on these systems to survive, and our lives, health and dignity depend on defeating the Republican proposals.
Senators need to understand their constituents (their voters, who can vote them in and out of office) are STRONGLY OPPOSED to the Republic healthcare bills. We need to use the June 30 – July 9 recess to #KillTheBill once and for all! Below is a quick look at the two Republican health bills (in a graphic you can share on social media, by the way!)
Part II. What’s the urgency?
Congress will be on recess from July 3-9, meaning that your Senators will be home! Our goal: put so much pressure on them that they realize passing the Republican healthcare bill in any form is politically not viable.
Your mission: Make sure they see you! Some are having a town hall meeting while they’re in town; lots of them are not. Contact them to find out if they are holding a town hall; and if not, set up a meeting with their office. Here’s how to set up a meeting.
Part III. Who are we targeting and why?
The Senate requires 50 votes for the bill to pass. All Democrats are expected to vote against the bill. According to sources, these 15 Republican Senators are the most likely to vote AGAINST the bill: Sen Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Sen. Lisa Murkowsi (AK), Sen Dean Heller (NV), Sen Rob Portman (OH), Sen. Dan Sullivan (AK), Sen. Jeff Flake (AZ), Sen. Susan Collins (ME), Sen. Bill Cassidy (LA), Sen. Bob Corker (TN), Sen Cory Gardner (CO), Sen, Richard Shelby (AL), Sen Luther Strange (AL), Sen. Pat Toomey (PA), Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN), Sen. Ron Johnson (WI)
Please target their offices with calls and schedule meetings to tell them that this bill isn’t good enough for Americans. Contact all of these key targets and their legislative aides and urge them to vote NO. If you live in their states, ask for an in-person meeting when they are in town.
To make phone calls or send automatic, state-specific tweets, check out this easy Trumpcare target toolkit.
But it’s also important to visit your Republican Senators in their district offices while they are home so they can see how important this issue is to their constituents. Here’s information about where to find them during the July 3-9 recess. More on what to do with this info is below, in Section IV. What to do.
Part IV. So what do we do?
1. Find your local events.
Many Senators use recess as an opportunity to connect with and hear from constituents at home. In fact, they are supposed to. You can check these listings of events to see if there is something already planned in your area:
- Families USA events calendar
- Town Hall Project events calendar
- There are sit-ins being organized in Republican Senators offices everywhere on Thursday, July 6! Sign up to join one.
- If you are on Facebook: Make sure that you join or follow local political groups such as the local Democratic and Republican party, as well as organizing groups like Indivisible, Rise Up, or MoveOn. That way, you will see when they post events. Pretty much all protests, town halls and other events are publicized on Facebook.
2. If your Senator is holding a town hall or making a public appearance at an event, plan to show up and “bird-dog” them
What is bird-dogging? Basically, the goal of bird-dogging is to compel your elected officials (in this case, Senators), to answer questions publicly in front of their constituents, voters, and the media. Bird-dogging is fun and easy! Just show up at local events and make sure you are ready to ask them: Will you commit to vote NO on the proposed health care bill? Here is a good comprehensive resource on bird-dogging from MoveOn.org.
Quick tips when bird-dogging:
- Arrive at the event early
- Don’t wear signs or clothing that give you away – you might not be called on to ask your question
- Note: you can always wear a T-shirt under a jacket or sweatshirt and take off a layer later once you’ve asked your question!
- Be prepared to talk briefly about how the BCRA would impact you and your state.
- Introduce yourself briefly and talk about your health care needs (or those of your clients or family members)
- See our talking points here.
- Be prepared with a specific Yes or No question: e.g., “Can I count on you to vigorously oppose the new Senate health care bill?”
3. Set up a meeting with your Senator’s office
Your Senators work for you. They are obligated to try and meet with constituents when requests are made. However, they are very busy (especially right now) and their calendars get full quickly. Since they will be home next week, this is the perfect time to reach out and schedule a meeting.
- Call as soon as possible to set up a meeting!
- Be as flexible as possible with day/time, as getting an appointment can be difficult.
- Be firm but polite in asking to meet with the Senators themselves. If you can’t get a meeting with the Senator, try to meet with the District Director or head of the district office. If neither is possible, try to meet with the health policy staff. Remember that your goal is to build an ongoing relationship with these offices, so be polite and respectful!
- Sample script for setting up your visit: Hello, my name is ________. I am a constituent of Senator ______ and I am (choose one: a person living with HIV/with organization ______/an advocate for people living with HIV). There are XXX people living with HIV in the state of [name of state]. I have a group of constituents who would like to meet with Senator _____ to discuss our concerns about the proposed Republican healthcare bill as soon as possible. Can we find a time to meet with the Senator next week?
Preparing for the Meeting:
Note: Most meetings are only about 15 minutes long, whether you are meeting with the Member or their staff. This means your group has to be organized and prepared to get your points across.
- Once you have an appointment set, get your group of advocates together and plan to show up for it! Be early.
- Plan what you are going to talk about (healthcare) for the purposes of setting up the meeting. At this link we have talking points for use at your meeting about the potential impact of the Republican “healthcare” bill for people living with HIV, if it passes.
Schedule a preparation meeting or phone call for your group to go over the talking points and who will share personal stories about how proposed legislation will affect them. If you need a conference call line to use for preparation, please contact us to let us know what time and date you will need it and we will set one up for your group.
4. Organize an event
If there are no events scheduled near you, why not set one up yourself with a group of like-minded advocates? Organizing an event to put pressure on your Senator and call attention from media and social media can be as simple as getting a group of folks to stand outside their district office chanting with signs, or as elaborate as hosting an “empty-chair” town hall with guest speakers and partnering organizations for a Senator who refuses to hold a town hall. With a short timeline to organize and recruit participants, you will want to be realistic about how big you can or want to go. Much of that will depend on your existing connections with organizations, activist groups or individual activists, as well as how far ahead you are starting to plan.
MoveOn has an excellent guide for organizing rallies here that takes you step-by-step through the planning process, from choosing the time, date and location to planning an agenda. They also have a great guide for organizing a news conference here–though you will want to make your rally a news conference, so that folks still have a reason for being there if the media doesn’t show up. Here are some signs you can download to use in protests or 4th of July parades from MoveOn.
If you want to organize a town hall for a Senator who refuses to hold one, more work will be required:
- Do your research: You will want to check your Senator’s website, Facebook page, Twitter and email communications to make sure they are not already scheduling public events. You should also call their district office and ask their staffers very directly if they are holding public events, and if not, why not.
- Push your Senator to hold a public event.
- Go public about your Senator’s refusal to meet with their constituents on social media, to reporters and with flyers.
- Hold a constituents’ town hall. Make sure to invite the Senator (and their staff, if the Senator can’t or won’t come), but plan for the Senator not to be present. You will need a venue, an outreach strategy for attendance and media, and speakers.
The Indivisible Guide has a detailed guide for planning constituents’ town halls here.
Part V. Get the media focused on health care
There are many different ways you can get media attention on health care. News organizations always love personal stories, so plan to have people who are personally at risk for losing health care available to share their stories and concerns. MoveOn has a great resource for how to get the media’s attention. Here are a couple of common ways:
- Media advisory and press calls for your event. If you are holding or helping organize a protest or constituents’ town hall, make sure the media knows about it to maximize the pressure it puts on your Senator. Here is a great sample media advisory.
- Submit an op-ed (opinion column) to your local newspaper. We have a template you can use in our #KillTheBill Resource Center here. This is also a very comprehensive guide to submitting op-eds.
Part VI. Additional ideas and resources
- For talking points on Trumpcare, go here.
- Post lots of photos and videos on social media from your protest, meetings, town halls or other events. You can also post photos of yourself holding a sign, or post some infographics that sum up what’s wrong with the Republican health care bill. Use these hashtags: #ProtectOurCare #HIVResists. Here’s a complete social media toolkit you can use.
- Get creative and let your inner artist out! Here are some great ideas shared by Paul Davis of Housing Works. Disclaimer: being on someone else’s private property and refusing to leave when asked may place you at risk for arrest.
- Go to their house and or office office with wheelbarrows and shovels and a banner that says, “SENATOR X HEALTH POLICY: DIG MORE GRAVES”
- Pour ashes on their front doors.
- Put banners and signs around their homes or offices. Hold speak outs at their homes and right outside their offices with patients.
- Sit down by all the doors and peacefully refuse to leave if the police come.
- Host a “Golden Urn” award ceremony, where undertakers and the grim reaper thank the Senator for repealing the Affordable Care Act
- Organize your friends, family, and everyone you know! Here is an email template you can use to reach out to those who might be supportive:
I am writing to you because my health care, and the social safety net for millions of Americans, is at risk. In the next few days, the Senate is expected to vote on a health bill that according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office would result in 22 million Americans losing health care coverage, including 14 million who rely on Medicaid. If this bill passes:
- People aged 50-64 will pay 5 times more than younger people on the insurance exchanges;
- People with pre-existing conditions could be subject to lifetime and annual caps on coverage;
- Caps on annual out-of-pocket costs for patients would no longer apply;
- Insurers will no longer be required to cover the basic package of preventive services under their plans. That means people may have to pay money out of pocket for preventive and diagnostic tests like mammograms and other cancer screenings, HIV screenings, and more.
- 15% of women may lose access to family planning services
- Insurance that includes mental health services could become unaffordable.
- Hospitals that rely largely on Medicaid billing are likely to close, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without access to nearby care.
- Mid-sized and large employers would no longer be required to provide health care coverage to their employees.
In short, this bill will devastate our communities. We can and must stop it! Will you join me to [speak to our Senator/make phone calls/other action]?
Wondering how to connect with relatives and friends who may not be politically aligned with you about your concerns on this bill?
Here is a great resource written by PWNers Barb Cardell and Kari Hartel from Colorado: “To simplify the conversation and the ask, we have developed this template for an email you can send to folks you want to reach out to, which focuses on health care as a nonpartisan issue that fundamentally affects everyone. We have also kept it non-HIV specific, since we know that HIV won’t be the specific concern that will move some of these folks to action.”
- Additional reading on Trumpcare and its projected impact:
- Chart from NPR: Who wins, who loses under Senate healthcare bill
- Comparison of House and Senate healthcare bills
- Analysis of the bills
- Top 10 threats to women’s health
- Interactive state map on changes to premiums and tax credits under the BCRA
- Estimated premiums in each state
- What will happen to Medicaid in my state? Here’s a folder with downloadable resources for all 50 states from NHELP
- Know Your Rights when protesting: tools and resources in English and Spanish