Democrats gathered Saturday morning at Roanoke College in 90-degree-plus heat to hear U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine fire up support for Obamacare and candidates for the November election.
“I can’t wait to get back up to Washington on Monday for what I think will the battle of my first five years in the Senate,” Kaine said. “I’m not sure I’m ever going to cast a more momentous vote.”
Senate GOP leaders are expected to debate next week on repealing the Affordable Care Act, although support for scrapping Obamacare is reportedly insufficient, especially in light of some Republican defectors and solid Democratic opposition.
“If we allow the one-party repeal effort, we will hurt tens of millions of Americans for no reason, for none,” Kaine said. “That’s what they’re trying to do and we have to defeat it.”
Kaine told supporters Saturday that Senate Republicans hoped to get 50 votes for repeal, allowing Vice President Mike Pence to cast the 51st vote. Democrats will do everything they can to stop it, Kaine said.
If Democrats are successful, Kaine said that would be just the beginning.
“I don’t want to accept the status quo. I think we ought to be getting better. We should be covering more people. We should be bringing down the cost of prescription drugs. We should have more mental health care.”
Kaine described the scene he witnessed on Friday as he visited the Remote Area Medical (RAM) Clinic in Wise County, where this weekend doctors, nurses, dentists and other practitioners have gathered to provide free health care services to large crowds of people without insurance.
According to the Health Wagon’s website, in 2013 the service “assisted more than 11,000 patients obtain access to care valued at over $1 million.”
Kaine described how needy people arrived on Tuesday and camped outside the county fairgrounds until Friday in hot cars to get a place in line. He said the remote clinic in Wise reminded him of a mission trip he took to Honduras in 1980.
“Next to Haiti it was the poorest country in the Americas, and that is how they do health care in Honduras,” Kaine said. “And yet, this is in my own commonwealth and in my own country.”
The senator said he saw license plates from as far away as Oklahoma at the Wise County gathering.
“People will drive for hours and days so that they can be treated,” he said.
Days before Kaine spoke, Republicans released statements about his appearance, saying it was intended to shift attention from the first Virginia gubernatorial debate taking place at the same time on Saturday at the Homestead in Hot Springs. Democrat Ralph Northam and Republican Ed Gillespie are vying for the governor’s office.
“We knew the last thing Ralph Northam wanted was to be on a debate stage with Ed Gillespie. Ed proposed 10 debates with Ralph, but so far he’s only agreed to three. Yesterday we found out that Ralph is even more scared than we realized — and Tim Kaine is riding to the rescue,” Republican Party of Virginia Chairman John Whitbeck was quoted as saying in a statement released Wednesday.
“The tactic here is blatant — Kaine is attempting to keep as many Democrats and media away from the event as possible, while attempting to put Virginia-specific issues on the back burner,” Whitbeck said. “Democrats are terrified to talk about Virginia issues, and for good reason.”
In a recent fundraising letter, Republican Corey Stewart, who recently announced that he is running against Kaine next year for senate, criticized Kaine’s loyalty to the Affordable Healthcare Act.
“Hillary Clinton’s running mate Tim Kaine is holding America hostage with Obamacare,” the letter stated. “President Trump is in the White House waiting to sign the Obamacare repeal, to bring healthcare costs back in line with reality. But the Senate has been unable to end the Obamacare debacle, and Democrats like Tim Kaine are to blame.”
Several state Democratic candidates up for election on Nov. 7 attended Saturday’s gathering on the Roanoke College campus in Salem and gave brief remarks. They included Justin Fairfax, candidate for lieutenant governor; Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke, who is running unopposed; Steve McBride, a 33-year-old Salem resident challenging Del. Greg Habeeb, R-Salem; and Djuna Osborne who is running against Del. Chris Head, R-Roanoke.
Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea, a Democrat, gave an opening prayer, which included well-wishes for Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who was recently diagnosed with an aggressive form of brain cancer.