Two Saturdays after progressives on both sides of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge applauded Congressmember Dan Donovan for declaring that he would be voting against the now-defunct repeal and replacement plan for Obamacare, constituents on the other side of the aisle descended upon the pol’s Staten Island office to throw what they called a “betrayal party.”
The “party” came just nine days after members of Staten Island 4 Change hosted what they called a “birthday party” for Obamacare (which is now seven years old) that also served as a personal thank you to the pol for his commitment to vote down the American Health Care Act (AHCA), which was pulled on Friday, March 24 (just one day after it was slated to be voted on by the House) due to lack of support (though a new version of the legislation is reportedly currently in the works).
According to organizer and conservative grassroots activist Bobby Zahn, those in attendance at the “betrayal party” felt that they were shorted by a congressmember they proudly elected.
“There is a lot of anger at Dan, even from some of the people on the right that support his ‘no’ vote, but not for the reasons that he did it,” said Zahn. “The bottom line is that Republicans ran on repealing and replacing Obamacare, and they’ve been running on that since 2010 when [former Congressmember] Michael Grimm was elected and now Dan has been elected on it. He voted on it in the past when it wasn’t going to make any sort of difference, so he made people believe he was a repealer. He swept his victory with a big margin, along with Donald Trump, in 2016, and a lot of us just feel like he let us down.”
Though the protest was held on April Fool’s Day, Zahn contended that local Republicans’ feelings on Donovan are no joke.
“Every one of us, no matter where we stand on [the AHCA], we know it’s not perfect,” he said, “but there [was] nothing in it that warranted a ‘no’ vote.”
Donovan’s stance was made public in wake of contention that he hadn’t even hinted to his constituents which way he’d be voting. Still, Zahn contended, his Republican backers kept the faith that he would vote the way he always said he would.
“His office told us that [one of the reasons for Donovan’s decision was that] he gauged what he should do by the number of phone calls that he got and the amount of protesters that showed up,” Zahn told this paper. “His office even went so far as to say, ‘well, you guys are never out here protesting.’
“We said, ‘well, 110,000 people called your office on November 8 of 2016 when they voted for him, based on the fact that he ran on the repeal and replacement of Obamacare,” he went on. “We didn’t think that he was a child who needed to have his hand held to know that that’s still what we wanted.”
Another reason for his decision, according to protesters, was a meeting with “stakeholders” that Zahn argued should have been open to more than just healthcare reps.
“[That meeting was with] the doctors and the hospitals, a.k.a. the ones that are going to benefit from the Medicaid expansion staying in place,” he said, stressing also that his request to meet with the politician weeks ago had been overlooked due to what Donovan’s office called a “glitch in the system.” “If he really wanted ‘stakeholders,’ he should have had the people who were going to profit [off of not cutting Medicaid] and the people who were going to pay for it, but he left the people who were going to pay for it out of it.”
When announcing his decision, Donovan stressed the negative impact the AHCA (at the time of his decision a combination of the Chris Collins/John Faso Amendment and Paul Ryan’s original health care replacement plan) would have had on both hospitals – four of which, in Donovan’s district, would lose at least $37 million in funding under the plan, according to Governor Andrew Cuomo – and seniors.
According to the Census’s 2015 Community Survey, there are 111,152 seniors in the district, which encompasses Staten Island as well as a swath of South Brooklyn, including Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.
“We just didn’t really think that we had to protest,” Zahn said, “and we’re very disappointed because, if we do have to do that, we’re going to lose every time because, unlike Democrats, a lot of Republicans are just not protesters. We’re out there paying the freight.”
The “betrayal party” was just one of at least 10 public protests held outside both the pol’s New Dorp and Dyker Heights district offices since the New Year – all others in support of everything from Obamacare and funding for Planned Parenthood to the pol’s alleged unwillingness to host a face-to-face town hall on the Brooklyn side of his district.
Despite new opposition from those who feel the pol may have flip-flopped, Alexia Sikora, press secretary for Donovan, says he stands by his decision.
“As proposed, the AHCA would have unduly hurt Brooklynites and Staten Islanders. Not only would the bill have burdened New York City residents and businesses with additional taxes to pay for tax cuts elsewhere in the state, but New Yorkers wouldn’t even have been able to take advantage of the proposed tax credits necessary to afford coverage,” she told this paper. “Local hospitals – the biggest employers in the district – would have been negatively impacted, and senior citizens would have seen their healthcare costs drastically increase. Furthermore, the legislation wouldn’t have solved the problem of rising premiums, high deductibles and enormous copays – which is what Congress has promised the American people it would fix.
“Congressman Donovan remains committed to reforming the healthcare system and will continue working with leadership and the White House to put forth a bill that repairs our broken system,” she went on. “The focus can’t only be on getting it done – it should clearly be about getting it done right.”