Senate Republicans narrowly won a vote to push forward with the health care bill on Tuesday, but they remained far from repealing the Affordable Care Act. In a 51-50 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie, the Senate voted to open the floor for debate on health care reform. After what could be a long debate, the Senate will then be expected to formally vote on the fate of Americans' health care coverage. In other words, the time to call your senator about health care reform is now... or never.
Tuesday's vote was procedural, meaning it had little to do with the content of the Republican-proposed health care bill. Rather, senators voted whether or not to consider health care for a formal debate. For Republicans, the vote was a preliminary step toward eventually putting an Obamacare replacement to a vote. Still, Republicans' success on Tuesday does not necessarily mean their plan to repeal and/or replace Obamacare will also pass. It just means that they now have the opportunity to debate health care policy and potential next steps.
For Democrats — and all those opposed to the GOP health care plan — Tuesday's vote was a call to action. Sen. Kamala Harris, a California Democrat known for her loud opposition to GOP initiatives, called on her supporters to "turn up the pressure" on Republicans following Tuesday's vote.
One way to turn up the pressure is to call your senator. Whether you oppose or support the GOP health care plan, you can explain your stance to your senator, who will ultimately vote on behalf of you in the Senate. To reach your senator, you can dial the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. When you call, be prepared to tell the operator which senator you're trying to reach. (A directory of senators is available on the Senate's website. Simply select your state from the drop-down menu to find your state's two senators.)
Once you're connected to the senator's office, don't expect to speak directly to the senator. Rather, you may be able to speak to an intern or some other office personnel. Tell the representative your name, where you're from, and how you'd like the senator to vote on health care reform, then trust that the office personnel will relay your message along. You may also be able to leave a voicemail.
If you're not sure what to say, many activist organizations that oppose GOP-sponsored health care reform have circulated scripts that help their supporters speak to elected officials. The most important thing to convey, of course, is your genuine perspective on the topic. It's not clear when the Senate will ultimately vote on health care reform, but the time for debate is now.