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Democrats Rally For Affordable Care Act With 'Day Of Action'


We're going to start the program today with news from one of the rallies going on nationwide. Democrats are demonstrating against congressional Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act. They're holding dozens of rallies around the U.S. Donald Trump takes office on Friday, and Republicans have already started the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act with a vote in Congress last week. Democrats don't have the votes to stop that, so they're looking outside of Washington to pressure Republicans.


BERNIE SANDERS: Tens and tens of thousands of Americans are saying loudly and clearly, Republicans, you are not going to destroy the Affordable Care Act.

MARTIN: That's Bernie Sanders in Warren, Mich. NPR's Scott Detrow was at that rally, and he's with us now. Hi, Scott. Thanks for joining us.

SCOTT DETROW, BYLINE: Hey, Michel. Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So it seemed like the idea today was to recapture some of the energy of Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign. Was that what it was like?

DETROW: Yeah, it really felt like a campaign rally. You had thousands of people cheering and waving signs. He had that energetic campaign music. And that was pretty striking since it's mid-January of a non-election year. So Democrats are holding these rallies all over the country. Nancy Pelosi is doing one in San Francisco. Elizabeth Warren is doing one in Boston. This is one of the more high-profile events, particularly because of the location which I think we're going to talk about in a bit.

But even with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer speaking at this rally, it was clear that Bernie Sanders was the star. A lot of Bernie Sanders supporters were there, big Bernie cheers going the whole time. And I saw several signs along the lines of don't blame me, I voted for Bernie.

MARTIN: Why did Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, go to Warren, Mich.?

DETROW: Well, this is in Macomb County, Mich., which is a county that really tells the story of Democrats' 2016 problems. It went for Barack Obama narrowly in 2008, narrowly in 2012. But in 2016, Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by more than 10 points here. And if you just look at the raw votes, he won the county by 48,000. That's more than four times what his total statewide margin was.

Bernie Sanders and Chuck Schumer are confident that Democrats can connect with the working-class voters who left the party for Trump. They think they just need to change the messaging that the party's focusing on the right issues, so they went here to try and deliver that message in person.

MARTIN: You know, Republicans across the country ran in 2016 on a promise to roll back the Affordable Care Act, a promise they'd been making for a long time. And they won. You know, Democrats are in the minority in both houses of Congress. They don't have the White House. So what is the strategy that they think will make a difference?

DETROW: Well, the message here was that Republicans, yes, you've talked about this for a long time. But you'll cause yourselves a lot of political harm and you could harm a lot of people if you simply repeal Obamacare. Democrats were very on message today, sticking to the same points. They did concede that Obamacare has a lot of problems, that it does need changes. But their argument is that it's provided health care to millions of people who didn't have it before.

And the aspect of law that they talked the most about and that they had people come onstage to give kind of testimonials about their experience with it was the mandate to insure people with pre-existing conditions. Now, Republicans do say they want to keep that mandate in whatever they put in place instead. They also want to keep another popular part of the plan - allowing adult children to stay on their parents' plans until they're 26 years old.

MARTIN: So remind us of where the process of repealing the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, stands now.

DETROW: Well, the House and Senate took the first major step toward totally repealing it at the end of last week by passing budget resolutions. That sets up a process where House and Senate committees are going to begin working on the detailed language of a repeal and whatever eventual replacement is drafted instead.

Republican leaders have said they want to do this as quickly as possible, but it's likely going to slow down a bit at this point. For one thing, that's because President-elect Trump wants his Health and Human Services secretary in place for the full repeal. That's Tom Price. And he's someone Democrats are planning on really giving a tough confirmation process to when he's up for hearing in Senate votes.

MARTIN: That's NPR's Scott Detrow in Warren, Mich. Scott, thank you.

DETROW: Sure thing. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.