An estimated 1,000 people took to the streets in front of 8th Congressional District Representative Dave Reichert’s Issaquah office just an hour before the congressman’s controversial Facebook Live chat aired Thursday from the KCTS studios in Seattle.
Wearing pink “Pussyhats” — a symbol of the anti-Trump movement — and carrying handmade signs addressing their top concerns, crowd members denounced Trump’s policies and called on Reichert to appear in person to his constituents. Protesters said that a town hall meeting would give Reichert a better chance to hear his constituents’ voices one-on-one better than a filmed Facebook event with pre-chosen questions.
“Facebook Live is not the same as making an appearance to his constituents. It’s degrading,” stated 14-year-old Madeline Hanify of North Bend. She said that her biggest worry under the current administration is for the future of health care in America.
Hanify was not alone; a large variety of political issues were represented by marchers, but chief among them appeared to be the potential repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
“The Affordable Care Act guarantees coverage for people with pre-existing conditions,” stated Jenni Mechem of Mercer Island. “It’s literally a lifesaver.”
Mechem is also worried for Americans with disabilities and how they may be affected by health care reforms.
Marion Kee of Redmond, a two-time cancer survivor, attested to the impact that the Affordable Care Act has had on her own life.
“Without coverage for pre-existing conditions, I may not be able to get health care at all,” said Kee, who finished radiation treatment for breast cancer one year ago.
Under the Affordable Care Act (also called Obamacare), Kee said her monthly premiums went down by half. Even so, health care insurance has still been a huge burden, costing her $22,000 just last year. Because she is partly disabled, Kee does contract work and therefore cannot get health care insurance from an employer.
“My husband and I are burning through our retirement just to pay for health care,” Kee said.
At Thursday’s interview with KCTS moderator Enrique Cerna, Reichert said that he did not wish to repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement.
“I will not support a health care bill that does not include replacement,” Reichert said, noting that the replacement bill he supports would keep certain aspects of the Affordable Care Act, such as coverage for pre-existing conditions, as well as the ability for young people to stay on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. He also said that “Medicare language would not be changed.”
“No one will lose coverage,” Reichert said.
Thursday’s rally saw complete strangers meeting one another and sharing information and viewpoints. Sharon Kay of Kent did not know Kee before the march, but began a conversation with her after noticing Kee’s sign, which read, “Rep. Reichert, please save my healthcare. WA’s people need your help! Thank you.”
The two women had a long conversation about health care and immigration, sharing their own experiences with one another.
“I just wanted to know what was important to her,” Kay said. She added that she personally has been lucky enough to never have experienced any major health problems, but did say that she has bought medicine in Canada to avoid paying higher prices in the United States.
For Kay, the top concern was protecting immigrants in the wake of Trump’s executive order to ban immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries.
“Immigrants should be given so much time to become American citizens,” she said. “Most are hard-working people.”
Kee said that she has “rarely seen people as scared” as her Muslim neighbors in Redmond in the wake of recent vandalism at mosques in Redmond and Bellevue.
“Reichert needs to stand up for the immigrants in his district,” Kee said.
Kelly Spangler of Seattle said that banning immigrants could have a direct impact on Washington’s economy, such as a labor shortage in Washington’s apple industry, which could in turn cause prices to rise at the supermarket.
“Even though Dave Reichert is not in my district, what he does greatly impacts the rest of the state,” Spangler said.
During his Facebook Live event, Reichert said that immigration reform is needed, but that he disagreed with the way Trump had gone about this.
“Executive orders … are not the way to get to immigration reform,” Reichert said. “It has to come legislatively.” Reichert said that Trump’s order had “wrapped up innocent people mid-air who were on their way to this country, who had a legal right to be here.”
Constituents said that they were not satisfied with the Facebook Live event and wanted to see Reichert come out and interact with those he represents.
“It would be only to his benefit if he’d talk to us,” said Holly Glaser of Mercer Island. “He’s like a little kid who won’t come out of his room … I’m outraged that the representative won’t talk to the people he represents.”
“Reichert really does not go public and hold events with his constituents,” said Collin Jergens of Fuse Washington, the organizer of Thursday’s rally. “There’s a reason his title is representative; he’s supposed to represent his constituents. That means meeting with them, listening to them and answering their questions, even if they don’t agree with him.”
Reichert previously told the Reporter in an email that “my team and I have always made every effort to make ourselves available.”