Before an assembly on Saturday that packed the gymnasium of Fruitvale's International Community School, Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-13) affirmed her commitment to resisting the Trump administration's attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Lee praised recent progressive gains — overturning the Muslim travel ban, the resignation of Michael Flynn, the withdrawal of Andrew Puzder as Labor Secretary — and stressed the critical role of her district in resisting the repeal of the ACA and other policies of the administration.
"So goes the East Bay, so goes the state, so goes the country," said Lee.
The fight to retain ACA comes with high stakes for the district — according to Ralph Silber, Executive Director of the Alameda Health Consortium, 350,000 East Bay residents are enrolled in the ACA; for 70,000 of those, it's the first time they've had healthcare coverage.
"Prior to the ACA, being a woman constituted a pre-existing condition," said Lee, who noted that in 15 states, being a victim of domestic violence counts as a pre-existing condition.
"The only way to deal with a bully is to fight back," said Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, who reported that of all 58 counties in the state, Alameda had enrolled the most people onto MediCal.
The Q&A portion of the meeting covered topics ranging from the school lunch program to Trump's alleged ties with Russia. A question about the possibility of impeaching the president prompted a standing ovation.
In response to a question on protecting immigrants, Supervisor Chan said Alameda County has a $1.5 M rapid response unit to provide aid to immigrants targeted by the administration's policies.
"This administration will not bully us by withholding federal funding, " said Lee. "We need to wrap our arms around these families."
When asked about the recent proposal for single-payer healthcare in California — which the California Nurse Association and Democratic Socialists of America were present to promote — Lee and Chan each said that such a bill must not detract from the efforts to resist the repealing of ACA.
Near the end of the panel, a woman walked up to the stage and asked a question directly to the panel.
"Where are the sanctuary cities for black people?" she asked. "We are not immigrants; we are imports. Immigrants get more rights than black people."
"We haven't completed our struggle for equality for African-Americans in this country," Lee responded.
Lee plans to hold another town hall in the district to discuss strategy for Democrats regaining the House of Representatives, but has not yet set a date.