A series of protesters demanding single-payer health care coverage disrupted a Senate Finance Committee roundtable on health care reform Tuesday. At the beginning of the hearing Tuesday morning, a man stood and yelled, "So let me get this straight -- you have 15 seats at the table and not one for single payer? Why is that?"
Committee chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) banged his gavel and said the committee would stand in recess until police restored order. It wasn't long after the disruption ended before another began.
"We need more police," Baucus said, to laughter.
"Is there some place they can watch it on television?" asked ranking committee member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), apparently wanting to offer the protesters a seat on the couch, if not at the table.
The protest was organized by a coalition of groups, including Physicians for a National Health Program and Healthcare-NOW!, that advocates a single-payer or universal health care plan. "Other methods of communication with elected officials have failed in delivering the demand for single-payer national health care as evidenced by the exclusion of single-payer advocates from official hearings on health reform," said a release about the event.
"It's only when people who are living in the park and people who are living on Park Avenue have the same health care that everybody will have high quality health care," said one man. "Single payer now!"
Baucus begged for cooperation.
"Everybody on the committee and everybody in the Congress deeply deeply respects the views of all members of the audience, and all Americans who feel deeply about health care reform, especially those who are worried about a single payer system or public option who really do fervently believe that is the proper result," Baucus said. "We are going to get the best result here the more we can have an orderly discussion as to how we can best reform the health care system, so I want to say to everyone, especially those of you who might be inclined to stand up, I urge you not to so we can proceed with the hearing."
UPDATE: Katie Robbins, assistant national coordinator with Healthcare-NOW!, tells the Huffington Post that eight people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and disruption of Congress.