“Nobody is going to yell, and nobody is going to scream,” Christopher Allen, one of the council chairs of MoveOn San Antonio told her. “We're going to be very respectful, hand him the bottle, and ask some questions.”
“I want to shake `Cornyn's` hand,” said the girl. “Don't!” a kid told her. “He's mean! You don't shake mean people's hands!”
The small but well-organized group (with the exception of the red meanie vigilante), divided in shifts, started collecting messages for Cornyn on Wednesday at 8:15 a.m. in Travis Park (a couple of blocks from the Senator's office), and then they all gathered at 4 p.m. to march and deliver the container, which looked like this:
“We got about 50 RSVPs, and we expect about 30 people,” Angie Drake, the local council co-coordinator of MoveOn told the Current, and that's pretty much what she got.
After a few words were spoken, the crowd of 30-or-so marched southbound on Navarro Street, carrying signs and the “prescription” bottle filled with messages like “Health care yes” (written by Conrado PÃ©rez), “Health care is a right, not a privilege” (John Michael Pulido), and “Yes for health care” (Richard RÃos).
“These are not messages from MoveOn members,” said Drake. “These are messages from people in San Antonio, people who take the bus or enjoy their lunch sitting on a bench. We collected about 100 messages from 8:30 to 9:30, and expect several hundreds by the time we get to the Senator's office.” Indeed, by 4 pm the bottle was packed with handwritten messages.
Due to the small size of Cornyn's office, more than half of the protesters had to stay downstairs, but those who went up were enough to fill the room.
Jonathan Huhn, South Central Texas/El Paso deputy regional director for the Senator, looks like he's barely out of high school. He was courteous, eloquent when discussing the issues he seemed to master, and real and humble enough to say “I'll have to look it up” or careful enough to not screw up whenever Allen asked him for specifics.
“For any official statements on behalf of the Senator, you'll have to call our press office,” Huhn said, but nevertheless engaged in an informal conversation with the volunteers.
After a few minutes, Drake asked the key question:
“But Senator Cornyn will vote against the public option, right?”
Then Huhn delivered the big news.
“With Senator `Barbara` Boxer's legislation he voted against that particular provision,” said Huhn. “And yes, he's against the public option. He's against any kind of government-run health-care option. He wants competition, but not an increase any taxation on his constituents, especially with unemployment on the rise.”
Allen asked whether the Senator would vote for removing the state boundaries for health insurance companies, even knowing what happened with credit card companies in South Dakota.
“Even knowing â?¦ I'm not â?¦ what's the correlation?” asked Huhn.
“The consumer protection laws were much more lax in North Dakota,” explained Allen, “so many credit card companies moved there and that's why you now have many credit card companies with a 31% interest rate.”
For some reason, Huhn assumed Allen was referring to Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, one of the proponents of the 2009 Patient's Choice Act of 2009, but said “I haven't heard the senator `Cornyn` reflect directly on that issue yet.”
“I wasn't referring to that at all,” Allen told the Current later. “I knew he didn't have an answer for me, the same way he didn't have an answer for me when I mentioned the $500 billion in Medicare which don't represent â??cutting of benefits' but cutting on waste and abuse. I was referring to credit card companies moving to South Dakota and life insurance companies moving to Delaware. We actually have a template of what happens when we remove those state boundary restrictions without any kind of regulations. We don't want that to happen to the health-care industry.”
Allen also asked whether Senator Cornyn would support the health exchange, and Huhn said “I would have to look at the legislation.”
“That surprised me a little speechless,” Allen told the Current. “Cornyn actually wants that, except for the fact that it is regulated by the government. That and the public option are the cornerstones of the health-care legislation that he opposes, because it would make it impossible to have big or small insurance companies. Everyone would have bargaining power.”
Finally, Allen asked whether anyone had any questions, and 17-year-old Gabriel GonzÃ¡lez, from Indian Creek, stepped up.
“Any talks of marijuana legalization anytime soon?”
“I have no comment on that,” said Huhn, not at all eager to roll 'em up with Little Gabe.