- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 22, 2017

DENVER — Sen. Cory Gardner showed no surprise as pro-Obamacare protesters began shouting during his Friday night speech at the Western Conservative Summit.

Without missing a beat, the Colorado Republican, referring to his recent meeting with two veterans who had survived Pearl Harbor, said “my guess is they’d be grateful that people can express their voices in this room tonight.”

“That’s what makes a nation great. The strength of each other to listen to disparate voices. To listen to people who have differing opinions,” said Mr. Gardner as the conservative crowd drowned out the protesters with chants of “USA!”

Wherever he goes, Mr. Gardner can count on running into activists who have made it their mission to target him this summer over efforts by Senate Republicans to shut down the Affordable Care Act.

Led by the disability-rights group ADAPT, the protesters have demanded that he vote against any effort to cut Medicaid as part of repeal-and-replace legislation, and they’re not afraid to run afoul of the law to get his attention.

The protests culminated with the June 29 arrests of 10 activists, including some in wheelchairs, who refused to leave after camping out in his Denver office for 59 hours. Gardner’s staff told reporters afterward that building management had said that the sit-in violated the senator’s lease.

The Denver Sheriff Department later said that Mr. Gardner’s office had filed trespassing charges against some of the protesters, prompting attorneys with ADAPT to obtain subpoenas to compel Mr. Gardner to appear in court at an Aug. 8 hearing.

At least two activists were escorted Friday by security from the Colorado Convention Center after chanting, “No cuts to Medicaid! Save our liberty!”



“Atlantis ADAPT is determined to bring the conversation out into the open with Senator Gardner,” said the group in a Friday post on its its Facebook page, National ADAPT. “So far, our lives and futures have been debated behind closed doors without our input.”

Another 40 protesters were arrested June 28 in Washington, D.C., after staging sit-ins outside the offices of a half-dozen Republican senators, including Mr. Gardner.

“I know there are people in this room who have very, very serious concerns about where that health care goes as they have a very important stake in this debate,” Mr. Gardner said in his Friday speech.

Mr. Gardner, who told the crowd he has held more than 400 meetings with Coloradans to discuss the health-care debate, said he wanted to “make sure that we focus our health-care efforts on those who need it the most.”

He said that health insurance costs under Obamacare have increased by 105 percent, which he called “a broken promise,” and called for giving states more flexibility to “design a program that works best for them.”

“What we have to do is we have to make sure that we can rebuild a health care system in this country that increases the quality of care, decreases the cost of care and does it by giving consumers more choice, more options, and more freedom,” Mr. Gardner said.

The senator told the told Denver Post last week that he would prefer to replace the Affordable Care Act, while some Senate Republicans have called for a repeal-only bill.

Jeff Hunt, director of the Centennial Institute in Lakewood, Colorado, which sponsors the annual summit, said this year’s event has drawn the most protesters in its eight-year history, but he framed the activism in a positive light.

“If they’re not protesting, you’re not making a difference,” Mr. Hunt said.

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