Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) delivered a deeply personal, impassioned plea against the Republicans’ “skinny” Obamacare repeal Thursday night, demanding to know why her Republican colleagues weren’t showing the American people the same compassion they showed her when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer in May.
“Where is your compassion? Where is the care that you showed me when I was diagnosed with my illness?” Hirono asked before the Senate narrowly voted down the measure. “I find it hard to believe that we can sit here and vote on a bill that is going to hurt millions and millions of people in our country. We are better than that.”
Hirono said her colleagues on both sides of the aisle sent her comforting notes after her diagnosis about their own experiences with major illnesses.
“You showed me your care. You showed me your compassion. Where is that tonight?” she said as she hit her fist on the desk. “I can’t believe that a single senator in this body has not faced an illness ― or whose family member or loved one has not faced illness ― where they were so grateful they had health care.”
Sen. John McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer this month and returned to Washington this week to vote on his party’s health care bill. Despite decrying the closed-door process Republicans used to draft an Obamacare replacement, McCain voted yes on the motion to proceed Tuesday and was one of three Republican senators voting against the “skinny” repeal measure Thursday night.
Hirono also made her way to the Senate on Tuesday after undergoing surgery related to her kidney cancer diagnosis, casting her vote against the Republican’s proposed repeal plan and protesting against the bill from the steps of Capitol Hill.
Hirono began her Thursday night remarks by noting that she was likely the only U.S. senator who had not been born in a hospital.
“I was born at home in rural Japan,” she said. “I lost a sister to pneumonia when she was only 2 years old in Japan. She died at home. Not in a hospital where maybe her life could have been saved.”
As Hirono fought back tears and took a deep breath, she said, “It’s hard for me to talk about this. I think you can tell. Give me a moment.”
She continued to talk about her life growing up as an immigrant living in America and how she feared her mother would become ill and run out of money.
“And now, here I am a United States senator,” Hirono said. “I am fighting kidney cancer, and I’m just so grateful that I had health insurance so that I could concentrate on the care that I needed rather than how the heck I was going to afford the care that would probably save my life.”