HARRISBURG, Pa. (KDKA/AP) - Pennsylvania's Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey's first appearance in front of a live TV audience was dominated by questions about the Senate's health care legislation that he helped write.
Wednesday night's appearance by Toomey in the Harrisburg studios of WHTM-TV came as the legislation awaits a Senate vote. He also took questions on medical marijuana and President Donald Trump, among other topics, but most questions focused on the health care bill he's defending.
The hour-long question-and-answer session was Toomey's first this year in public in front of an audience.
The appearance was broadcast live by WHTM and sister stations in Erie, Altoona and Wilkes-Barre.
Protesters crowded outside WHTM and blocked entrances while protesting what they call the bill's devastating cuts to Medicaid, including attendant care for the disabled.
In Pittsburgh a few dozen protesters showed up outside Toomey's Grant Street office.
"Trumpcare is class war, by the rich, against the poor," they chanted in protest to Toomey's support for the Senate Republican health care plan.
"It will eliminate or diminish health care for up to 34 million children," organizer Adam Shuck from the Pittsburgh Democratic Socialists told the crowd.
"Eleven million disabled people; seven million elderly."
Protesters object to Toomey's failure to old any town hall meetings open to everyone.
"Just last night he held another one of his televised virtual town halls, invitation only, closed door," Shuck told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.
"But, yes, he is an elected official and he needs to hear from his constituents."
Local protesters say Toomey's support for a plan that could take 22 million off health insurance while cutting taxes for the wealthy is why they are protesting.
"I don't trust Senator Toomey to really put the best interests of all Americans at heart," says Shuck.
"He works for the billionaire class and not average Americans."
While Toomey is a likely yes vote, it will take 50 votes to repeal and replace in the Senate.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell seem to admit that he doesn't have the votes yet to do that.
At a Rotary meeting in his home state today, he said if the GOP plan doesn't pass, a more limited bill would be needed to maintain the health insurance marketplaces in the current Affordable Care Act.
That would almost certainly require Republicans to negotiate with Democrats.
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