It’s time again for Senate Democrats to burn the midnight oil.
Senate Democrats launched yet another night of floor speeches on Monday night castigating the GOP’s plan to repeal and replace Obamacare — a talk-a-thon led by Sens. Patty Murray of Washington and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii that ran several hours after the Senate’s 5:30 p.m. votes.
And while Democrats took turns taking the floor inside the chamber, a much more rambunctious rally was unfolding outside on the Capitol steps in the relatively cool June night. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), along with Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), settled outside shortly after 7 p.m. and began streaming their talk blasting the GOP’s efforts to dismantle the seven-year-old health care law.
As the night progressed, Booker’s vigil on the steps attracted more and more senators, including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York and Dick Durbin, the No. 2 Democrat, joined in. Several other Democratic senators — including Sens. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Jeff Merkley of Oregon — joined in for large chunks of the impromptu demonstration that attracted hundreds.
“Right now, the biggest enemy we face is not a handful of senators blocking health care for millions, but it’s the silence of the many who have the power to do something about this,” Booker said around 11 p.m. as the assembly was winding down. “Remember, the power of the people is greater than the people in power … let your voice be heard.”
Murphy told the crowd that the senators didn’t give anybody a heads up that “several hundred people” would gather at the Capitol steps. Booker urged the masses to Snapchat with the various senators who were there, adding: “Extra points if you tell Durbin what a Snapchat is.” And the normally soft-toned Casey roared to the group: “The issue of health care is a matter of basic justice.”
“Light up the switchboard!” Durbin roared to the group. “Get on the phones … don’t be afraid to tweet.”
Earlier on the floor, kicking off the round of speeches Monday evening was Hirono, who recently underwent treatment for kidney cancer and has spoken about her diagnosis as she’s made her case against Republican efforts to dismantle Obamacare. Hirono is having a second surgery on Tuesday for a lesion on her rib, a spokesman said.
“Democrats are going to keep sharing our stories,” Murray said, “and the stories of our constituents to make sure people understand how devastating and ‘mean’ Trumpcare would be for the people we represent, and to do everything we can to keep up the pressure to stop it.”
Ben Wikler, the Washington director for MoveOn.org, on Twitter urged other liberal activists to pack the galleries in the Senate chamber Monday night to show support for Democrats and their late-night speech marathon.
Democrats also led a round of floor speeches last Monday that ended shortly after midnight.