About 200 people gathered at a Town Square Park rally in Anchorage on Saturday, July 29, 2017 to thank U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for recent Senate votes against repealing Obamacare. (Steffi Lee/KTVA)


Alaskans gathered at a Saturday rally in Anchorage to thank U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, as well as other Senate Republicans, whose “no” votes have derailed recent Republican Party plans to repeal Obamacare.


The Protect Our Care Alaska Coalition, a health care group, held the pro-Murkowski event at Anchorage’s Town Square Park. Organizers said an estimated 200 people gathered at the park to hear initial speakers in praise of Murkowski’s votes on the Senate floor, then walked several blocks west to her Anchorage office at the Peterson Towers on L Street.




Kevin McGee, the president of the NAACP’s Anchorage office, hailed Murkowski for casting a “decisive vote” Thursday.


“Murkowski voted in opposition to theft of Alaskans’ health care,” McGee said. “Health care is literally life and death, and Alaskans have Lisa Murkowski to thank.”


NAACP of Anchorage president Kevin McGee spoke on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at a Town Square Park rally thanking U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski for recent Senate votes against repealing Obamacare. (Steffi Lee/KTVA)


Related story: Alaskans react to Sen. Murkowski’s vote on health care


Murkowski was one of three GOP senators, along with Susan Collins of Maine and John McCain of Arizona, to buck the party line overnight Thursday and vote no on a “skinny repeal” of Obamacare – joining all Democrats to sink the bill on a 49-51 vote. A larger group of six other Republicans had joined Murkowski on Wednesday to torpedo a partial repeal of Obamacare.


Colin Palmer, a former intern at Murkowski’s office, said at Town Square Park that the Affordable Care Act, passed during the Obama administration, wasn’t perfect but “it’s a lot better than what they were considering, because this was a bad bill.”


“(Murkowski) stood with us – not Washington, not Trump, not the big money,” Palmer said. “That’s the way it needs to be.”


Kent Sybrant moved to Alaska from the Lower 48 recently. He says he isn’t pleased with either Republicans or Democrats on how they’ve handled the discussion of health care reform, but thinks Murkowski is on the right track.


“I think Lisa Murkowski, from what I’ve seen and what she’s done, is excellent in taking care of Alaskans.”


He hopes both parties will collaborate on any new pieces of healthcare legislation.


Jessica Spayd is a nurse practitioner based in Eagle River. She said as an owner of a small business and as someone with a pre-existing condition, she struggles to pay for health insurance. She suggested lawmakers work towards building a single-payer healthcare system for Americans.


“Everybody’s given a Medicare coverage,” she said. “But they can also get private insurance through their employer.”


Colin Palmer, a former intern at U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office, spoke on Saturday, July 29, 2017 at a Town Square Park rally thanking her for recent Senate votes against repealing Obamacare. (Steffi Lee/KTVA)


President Trump blasted Murkowski on Twitter after she and Collins voted Tuesday against opening Senate debate on health care reform, although McCain voted in favor of doing so and left the Senate tally at a 50-50 tie. Vice President Mike Pence cast a vote in favor to break the impasse, beginning this week’s GOP efforts to rewrite the nation’s health-care law.


Murkowski defended her Tuesday vote by saying she believed it “was in Alaska’s best interest,” adding that she hoped to get “good policy, enduring policy” rather than a quick floor vote.


Alaska’s junior U.S. senator, Dan Sullivan, has been a “yes” vote on this week’s measures repealing Obamacare. He promised Tuesday that he “will not vote for a bill that makes things worse for Alaskans.”


Palmer, 29, said he has a heart condition; he worries that he wouldn’t be able to afford health insurance if the ACA were repealed and pre-existing conditions weren’t covered. He invoked the memory of Alaska’s longest-serving senator, and one of Murkowski’s personal heroes, in praise of her votes.


“Ted Stevens would be proud,” Palmer said.


Steffi Lee contributed information to this story.


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