VISTA, Calif. (CN) – More than 800 people sporting hospital gowns and masks, wheelchairs and canes gathered outside the local office of Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Vista, Tuesday to protest the congressman’s vote to repeal former President Barack Obama’s landmark health care law – and vowed to vote him out of office in 2018.
The protesters – constituents who live in northern San Diego County and southern Orange County – have gathered at Issa’s office every Tuesday since the inauguration of President Donald Trump for “Resist Trump Tuesdays.” The weekly protests have swelled from only a handful of people in the beginning to include more than 820 at Tuesday’s protest, which was focused on the future of U.S. health care.
Now in his ninth term, Issa is the wealthiest member of the House, with a total worth estimated to be $768 million – including $432 million in assets. The Republican squeaked by in his last Congressional race, winning by just over 1,600 votes.
He has since been identified as one of the Republicans most “at risk” of losing his seat. The Republican Congressional Committee put him in its Patriot Program, which raises money to keep incumbents in office.
The months-long protest against Issa has now crossed state borders, with sister protest groups in Sarasota, Florida, taking place at a private fundraising event for Issa over the weekend.
Prior to his vote last week to repeal Obama’s health care law and replace it with Trump’s American Health Care Act, Issa dodged questions by constituents and voters as to how he was planning to vote up until the morning of the decision.
Protesters had met at Issa’s office on the morning of the vote, when staffers told them they didn’t know how the congressman would vote. Immediately after Issa cast his vote, however, his office issued a statement admonishing Obama’s health care law, saying: “Obamacare was a failure from the get-go. Now is the time to make it right.”
At Tuesday’s protest, the more than 820 people who gathered said Issa reneged on his promise at a March town hall to vote against any replacement that did not protect those with pre-existing conditions or ensure funding for Planned Parenthood.
Corrine Blanco of Carlsbad told Courthouse News she didn’t know if she’s more upset about health care or the environment.
The 70-year-old is a former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employee and has a rare form of cancer which attacks the mucosal portions of her body. While she said her cancer is considered incurable and “if I die, I die,” she’s worried about family members with heart conditions and diabetes and her grandson who has autism getting affordable health care in the future.
Blanco said Issa “lies to your face like the president,” and pointed out the congressman said he would not vote for a bill which defunded or negatively impacted Planned Parenthood. But she said Issa’s voting record shows he’s voted against Planned Parenthood a handful of times.
“If you look past his lies, his votes lack transparency and he has a lack of interest in explaining his position to his constituents,” Blanco said.
“He’s brought this on himself. He’s done this to himself.”
Protesters chanted and sang coordinated phrases including, “Darrell Issa, Darrell Issa, 2018, goodbye” to the tune of Steam’s “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye,” and “Darrell Issa, hear our shout, we are going to vote you out.”
Valarie McCourtney of Vista sported a face mask and a box carrying dozens of empty prescription medication bottles which her family took over a year. The small business owner said it hasn’t been easy paying $800 a month for health insurance through Covered California – the state’s exchange – but that it’s better than not having health insurance at all.
“Before the Affordable Care Act, we did not have health insurance coverage. This is the first time we’ve been able to have health care, it’s the first time we’ve been taken care of in any way,” McCourtney said.
Trump’s health care bill next heads to the Senate, where some senators have vowed to start from scratch on a new bill.