YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (CN) – After Senate Republicans narrowly voted to bring their health care bill to the floor Tuesday, President Donald Trump told supporters in Ohio that lawmakers are closer to getting rid of the “Obamacare nightmare.”
Alongside first lady Melania Trump, the president reassured the crowd of nearly 5,500 supporters gathered at downtown Youngstown’s Covelli Centre of his intent to make good on campaign promises to build a wall along the Mexican border, eliminate Obamacare and revitalize the Rust Belt’s industrial economy.
“I’m here this evening to cut through the fake news filter, and to speak straight to the American people,” Trump said, eliciting a “CNN sucks” chant from the crowd. “Tonight we are going to set aside the cynics and the critics because we know exactly why they are so angry and so bitter.”
“I think with few exceptions, no president has done what we’ve done during his first six months in office,” Trump said, citing proposed historic increases on defense spending and the passing of the Veterans Affairs Accountability Act and thanked his supporters for defending the Second Amendment.
With unemployment rates at a 16-year low, Trump advised residents of the once-prosperous steel manufacturing town not to sell their homes and promised health care reforms benefitting working-class families.
Just a few hours prior, Senate Republicans voted to move forward with the health care debate but have yet to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, which Trump slammed at the Ohio rally.
“Today, we won 51 to 50 and didn’t get one Democrat vote,” Trump said. “We are one step closer to liberating our citizens from this Obamacare nightmare and delivering great health care to the American people.”
Trump cited exorbitant premiums and skyrocketing deductibles in states such as Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Alaska as reasons to get rid of the law.
Though the particulars of Republican health care reforms remain unclear, senators will continue Wednesday to debate and vote on amendments to a bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
Vowing to crack down on sanctuary cities and oust members of the Salvadorian gang MS-13 from the country, Trump claimed illegal immigration from Mexico has dropped by 78 percent since his presidency.
“Don’t even think about it,” he said. “We will build the wall.”
Trump added, “I watch the media as they say, ‘well, he just had some fun during the campaign on the wall’ – that wasn’t fun folks – we’re building the wall and walls do work.”
Prior to the event, rally attendees were encouraged to alert law enforcement officials of the presence of protesters by holding signs above their heads and chanting “Trump, Trump, Trump.”
The speech was interrupted several times as at least four protesters were ejected from the private event paid for by Trump.
The first protester was escorted out during a speech by daughter-in-law Lara Trump, who is expecting her first child with husband Eric next month.
“The same people touting this crazy Russia story are the ones who gave us the fake polls throughout the election,” Lara said as police officers dragged the protester out.
“Boy he’s a young one,” Trump said later, turning from the podium to watch as another protester donning a Communist flag was removed. “He’s going home to mommy. And I’ll bet his mommy voted for us, right?”
Trump also took several opportunities to blast the “fake news media” for underreporting his achievements as president and twisting his words.
“I’d ask whether or not you think I’ll someday be on Mount Rushmore but here’s the problem, if I did it joking, totally joking, having fun, the fake news media will say, ‘he believes he should be on Mount Rushmore,'” he said. “So I won’t say it, ok?”
“What a dishonest group of people, I’ll tell you,” Trump added.
Many of the protesters who were ejected from the rally were affiliated with refusefascism.org, whose mission is to drive out the Trump-Pence regime.
Jim Gargan, communications director of the fictional group National Small Penis Association, said Tuesday night’s event was the first Trump rally he’s attended since the election.
“The National Small Penis Association is a gun rights advocacy group that seeks to enhance the self esteem of insecure small-penised white men who are disappointed with the way their lives turned out through the ownership of excessively powerful firearms,” Gargan explained. “We’re there to do the heavy lifting that the NRA can’t do and [Trump] represents the ethos [of our organization.]”
Erica Wilcoxsen, 28, says she traveled over 17 hours from her home in Florida to attend the Youngstown rally. She and her parents have been following Trump throughout his entire campaign with her family-run T-shirt business, Custom Printing Florida, which specializes in political campaign wear.
“Obamacare has to go,” Wilcoxsen said. “I don’t think people should be penalized for not being able to afford healthcare.”
Though she was unable to afford monthly premium payments for Obamacare coverage, Wilcoxsen said she was forced to cough up nearly $1,200 in penalty fees at the end of the year.
“Frankly, if you can’t support it, I don’t think you should be penalized,” Wilcoxsen said. “I think it needs to be repealed and replaced.”
Christina Stroup, 44, of Youngstown, who came to the rally with a 4-by-8-foot red and white sign which simply read, “Proud Deplorable,” said she was anxious to hear how Trump will bring jobs back to the region.
Stroup and her business partner run a local sign-making business called The Great Phoenix Trading Company, which contributes all its earnings to Trump’s campaign after operating costs.
“We’re right here in Youngstown, Ohio,” Stroup said, “I live here, I work here, this is my town and we are pro-Trump all the way.”
“I don’t like him because he puts people down,” said Martha Tomb, also of Youngstown. “He has no business telling people they can’t come into this country and taking away medical insurance from people who need it.”
Jim Hopping of Youngstown said he “can’t stand” Trump.
“It was a country that was formed to be called the great melting pot, then he wants to get rid of the Muslims, he wants to get rid of the Mexicans, he’s segregating this whole country and it’s screwing the entire country up,” Hopping said. “Sometimes I still can’t believe that Donald Trump is our president of all people.”
Dan Johnson from Akron, Ohio, says he agrees with Trump’s stance on the news media.
“Infowars and Alex Jones want people to know that CNN is fake news,” Johnson said, comparing the outlet to the Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels. “They lie to the public and you cannot trust CNN reporting … The more you lie to the public, the more they believe it. It’s all propaganda.”
Laura Roskoph said she was moved by Trump’s speech.
“His sincerity for this country remains unwavering,” Roskoph said. “I like the fact he stands on our constitution as it is today, as it was years ago, he stands with our forefathers.”
“His enthusiasm towards America is amazing,” said Anthony Colella, a flight attendant from Erie, Pa. “It’s what inspired everyone to vote for him. People are going to say what they’re going to say about him, but he hits home with the people who really want him to do well.”
Joe Makosky, 56, a retired architect from Warren, Ohio, said he is excited about job and economy improvements in the Youngstown area.
“This is my sixth rally, it was fabulous,” Makosky said. “Now that he’s president, I think that he’s got a lot more to say and I like hearing about the things that he’s accomplished.”
“I listen to Fox News all the time and you don’t hear it anywhere else,” said Makosky.
“I’m still proud to be a deplorable,” Makosky added cheerfully.
Diana Lucic, a 14-year-old high school student, traveled from Cleveland to attend the rally with her father, Vilmer Lucic, a 38-year-old small business owner.
“I think that Donald Trump is making great progress and doing good at bringing jobs back as far as oil and energy jobs that were not there before,” said the elder Lucic. “I’m grateful to the United States to have a good president.”