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Rep. Maxine Waters speaks out on GOP healthcare bill at packed town hall meeting, as protesters rally outside

Rep. Maxine Waters speaks out on GOP healthcare bill at packed town hall meeting, as protesters rally outside
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) speaks at a town hall meeting on Saturday at Nakaoka Community Center in Gardena. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

To illustrate why she believes everyone should have access to comprehensive healthcare, Rep. Maxine Waters said she and her 12 siblings never saw a physician or a dentist their entire childhood.

"I was born at home in St. Louis back in the day when it was hard for minorities to get into hospitals," she said.

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To soothe cavities, Waters said her family relied on turpentine and cotton. If it was really bad, the tooth was yanked out using string and a slammed door.

The California Democrat, who spoke Saturday at a packed town hall meeting in Gardena, said she worries some Americans will be forced to do what her family did if the Republican healthcare bill passes. Senate Republicans have pledged to pass a bill before the July Fourth holiday.

Some GOP senators have said they want to review the analysis of the bill from the Congressional Budget Office before making up their minds. The budget office has said it will release that assessment early next week.

Waters said the existing bill would deny access to people with preexisting conditions, cause millions to lose their healthcare and penalize millennials.

"We can do better than this," she said.

Supporter Gwen Bailey, 59, who works doing admissions at a hospital, said she worries especially about the people who could lose their insurance and the strain it would put on hospitals.

"It's a lot that people would be losing," she said.

Inside, chants of "USA! USA!" could be heard from around 80 protesters who paced back and forth outside the venue.

Waters' opponents were dressed in pro-Trump garb and called her "Dirty Waters."

Chanell Temple said she lost her job a few years ago and hasn't been able to find a new one because she doesn't speak Spanish. She said Waters has destroyed the black community by supporting immigrants.

Waters criticized key members of President Trump's cabinet, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. She said Housing Secretary Ben Carson should go back to being a surgeon and that she'll "take him apart" when he goes before the House Committee on Financial Services, of which she is the ranking Democrat.

Waters said some Republicans might vote against the healthcare bill.

She told the crowd that they deserve a president who will represent everyone. A woman in the audience stood up with a sign that said "Impeach Mad Max" and began walking through the rows and up to the foot of the stage, yelling that Waters needs to go.

Waters didn't skip a beat. She led her supporters in a chant to "Impeach 45," repeating it over and over as her supporters turned to face the woman and narrowed in on her, clapping to the beat. The chant lasted more than four minutes.

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A short while later, Waters closed by repeating a phrase that millennials, who call her "Auntie Maxine," taught her: "Stay woke."

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