Crowd protests Senate Graham-Cassidy hearing

With hours to go before a Monday Senate hearing on Republicans’ Graham-Cassidy health care bill, hundreds of protesters affiliated with a wide range of activist groups lined up in the halls of the Dirksen Senate Office Building to show the GOP they will not stand for a proposal that may kick millions off their health insurance.

At press time, the line of protesters forming outside the room where deliberations are scheduled to take place stretched across two separate Senate buildings.

Protest organizers told Mic that at least 200 protesters — 80 of whom were using wheelchairs — showed up in the early hours of the morning to admonish Senate Republicans for their fifth attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a bill that one estimate warned may kick more Americans off their health insurance than the so-called “skinny repeal,” which the Congressional Budget Office said would lead to 32 million people losing their insurance.

RELATED: Protesters in Senate Graham-Cassidy hearing

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Protesters in Senate before Graham-Cassidy hearing
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Protesters in Senate before Graham-Cassidy hearing
A member of the disability rights group ADAPT is escorted out of a Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Senators sponsoring a last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill raced to save it from near-certain death Sunday, circulating a new version aimed at winning over several GOP holdouts. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A member of the disability rights group ADAPT shouts slogans in the hallway outside a Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Senators sponsoring a last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill raced to save it from near-certain death Sunday, circulating a new version aimed at winning over several GOP holdouts. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators lay on the ground outside Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Senators sponsoring a last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill raced to save it from near-certain death Sunday, circulating a new version aimed at winning over several GOP holdouts. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Demonstrators hold a sign opposed to the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal outside a Senate Finance Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Senators sponsoring a last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill raced to save it from near-certain death Sunday, circulating a new version aimed at winning over several GOP holdouts. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A demonstrator stands detained outside a Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Senators sponsoring a last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill raced to save it from near-certain death Sunday, circulating a new version aimed at winning over several GOP holdouts. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
U.S. Capitol police officers stand next to seated demonstrators outside a Senate Finance Committee hearing to consider the Graham-Cassidy-Heller-Johnson proposal in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. Senators sponsoring a last-ditch Obamacare repeal bill raced to save it from near-certain death Sunday, circulating a new version aimed at winning over several GOP holdouts. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Protestors being removed one-by-one. https://t.co/HZPPYI3nrj
Outside Senate committee hearing on #GrahamCassidy right now. https://t.co/E08tktvc5B
Wow. https://t.co/VOlQHBksPy
BREAKING: Senator Hatch orders Graham-Cassidy health care hearing to recess as protesters in wheelchairs are remove… https://t.co/89puBgpAKZ
Organizers say ~200 activists, including ~80 in wheelchairs, are already outside room 4 Graham-Cassidy hearing. It… https://t.co/67OsD1o462
A protester is removed by Capitol Hill police officers during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the latest Republican effort to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. September 25, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
The line for the Graham-Cassidy hearing is so long it stretches into another building. https://t.co/Nz1aj4mNZf
@PPFA @popdemoc @IndivisibleTeam @MoveOn @okapidread @SenGillibrand @PattyMurray @MomsRising @BenCardinforMD NEW: P… https://t.co/lS9a1WUnPM
Dramatic arrests as people are being forcibly dragged from Senate finance hearing on Graham/Cassidy https://t.co/wDtyxTq4CI
Cops have formed a human barricade outside the Graham-Cassidy hearing. https://t.co/SVVnTdyd21
Huge crowd of disability rights advocates protesting outside hearing on Graham-Cassidy Obamacare repeal. Lots of co… https://t.co/XvCDgscKtJ
More photos from outside the #GrahamCassidy hearing. Stop #Trumpcare. https://t.co/kx77YuKWcl
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Among the groups organizing the day’s events were major activist networks like ADAPT, Indivisible and MoveOn.

Lopeti Penimaani, a member of ADAPT for the past 34 years, said he has been to at least 25 protests to support disability rights. Sitting in his wheelchair in the line outside the Senate hearing, the Utah resident said the Graham-Cassidy proposal would lead to people with disabilities losing their independence — echoing concerns from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a liberal-leaning thinktank which conducted the most extensive analysis so far of how the bill affects those currently insured.

“We [have] to keep Medicaid, save Medicaid so that people have these services in their own homes,” Penimaani said. “We shouldn’t be living in a nursing home or institution.”

Penimaani has a degenerative neurological disease that makes it difficult for him to walk. He also suffers from seizures. His equipment and treatment is largely paid for by Medicaid, he said.

Bruce Darling, a community organizer with ADAPT, said in a phone interview that the Graham-Cassidy health care bill was “insidious.”

“This isn’t just a health care bill — this is a voter suppression bill,” Darling said. “They’re suppressing our votes by suppressing our lives... it’s insidious.”

When Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, one of the bill’s cosponsors, arrived for the hearing, protesters chanted “shame!” at him.

As other senators entered the room for the hearing, protesters chanted “save our liberty!” and “no cuts to Medicaid!”

Law enforcement began to remove protesters — including some in wheelchairs — from the room shortly after 2 p.m. local time.

As a result of protesters’ disruption, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah said that the hearing would go into a temporary recess until the room came to order.

With just days to go before the Sept. 30 deadline, Senate Republicans’ chances of passing their fourth attempt at health care reform look grimmer and grimmer by the day.

Assuming all Democrats will vote against Graham-Cassidy, the bill needs only three Republican votes against it to fail. Republican Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas have all stated that they are against the bill. Sen. Collins said she was strongly leaning towards voting against the bill. Sen. Murkowski of Alaska, who joined McCain and Collins in killing the skinny repeal effort, is currently undecided. According to Ted Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah is also against the bill.

Though Graham and Sen. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, the other author of the bill, revised it in an apparent effort to appeal to its holdouts, it is unclear whether their gambit will be enough to garner their support.

A Senate hearing on the Graham-Cassidy bill is slated to take place on Monday afternoon.

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