The GOP health-care bill, which is opposed by virtually every major health-care and hospital group in the nation and could leave 24 million Americans without insurance, snuck through the U.S. House by just four votes earlier this month. In other words, without the backing of two Miami legislators — Carlos Curbelo and Mario Diaz-Balart — it wouldn't have passed.
That's an even more striking fact when you consider that Curbelo and Diaz-Balart represent a city with the highest concentration of Obamacare users in the nation. Up to 360,000 voters in Miami could lose access to basic health care thanks to Curbelo and Diaz-Balart's votes. So the two congressmen must have a hell of a good reason for backing the bill, right?
Whatever their reasons, they apparently aren't quite good enough to actually discuss face-to-face with those constituents set to lose their insurance. Neither Curbelo nor Diaz-Balart has held a single town-hall meeting to explain their backing of the American Health Care Act (AHCA).
This afternoon, protesters from seven progressive South Florida groups will demand that Curbelo and Diaz-Balart show their faces during the next congressional recess later this month. It's the least they can do after such an inexplicable vote, organizers say.
"We want to publicly make that request and show them that a lot of their constituents want them to hold town halls to explain their votes," says Andrea Pimentel, a district organizer for the Florida Democratic Party. "It's unthinkable they make a vote to repeal Obamacare and haven't had a single meeting to talk to the people who will be affected."
By most independent measures, the bill that passed the House will be a disaster for South Florida, where Obamacare has played a vital role in providing basic medical care. In fact, a Kaiser Family Foundation study shows that Curbelo and Diaz-Balart's districts have the second- and third-highest rates of Obamacare enrollment in the nation (trailing only that of local Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson).
The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says the bill — which, again, Curbelo and Diaz-Balart both leant their vital support — would conservatively kick 24 million Americans off health care and cut $880 million from Medicare.
So why are these guys supporting the bill? Curbelo attempted to explain himself in a deeply ridiculous Miami Herald op-ed last week, in which he all but admitted the bill is terrible but promised that the Senate would make it better. (Curbelo also filmed two different TV spots depending upon whether he voted for or against the bill, showing how wishy-washy his own feelings on the vote were.)
Pimentel says it's been 645 days since Curbelo has held an open town hall with his constituents. Diaz-Balart has gone a remarkable 2,155 days without holding one.
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"These town halls are important because it's easier for constituents to communicate directly with their representatives and to have a face with their story," she says. "It shows there a community behind these concerns about the health-care bill."
Of course, there's an obvious reason why Curbelo and Diaz-Balart are avoiding their voters. A new national poll out this weekend from the Wall Street Journal/NBC shows that Americans believe the bill is a bad idea by a 2-1 margin. That split is probably even deeper in Miami-Dade County. GOP reps who have held town halls have been berated, screamed at, and even shoved by furious voters.
But listening to constituents is a key part of the democratic process — especially if they're angry with you. It's easy for Curbelo to publish a self-serving editorial in the Herald. Actually listening to stories of Miamians who will lose coverage thanks to his vote would be a lot less palatable.
Today's demonstration begin at noon outside Curbelo's office at 12851 SW 42nd St. Speakers will include locals who could lose medical access under the GOP plan and physicians concerned about how the budget cuts will hurt HIV prevention and other public health plans.