Stella Lohmann
Healthcare reform debate matures tea party movement
By Stella Lohmann
November 8, 2009

At 11:07 PM EST Saturday night, the highly debated and emotionally charged HR 3962 Omnibus Health Care Reform Act passed the House along party lines 220 to 215. Republican Party Chairman, Michael Steele, told Geraldo Rivera of Fox News, "Listen to those Democrats applauding their way right out of office next year."

The late night vote follows days of protests outside the nation's Capitol by protestors of the estimated 1.2 trillion dollar health care reform bill and a slew of rallies, town hall meetings, and bus rides by Americans fearing that the Omnibus bill is actually a move toward socialism and loss of freedom overall. A call by Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) on Sean Hannity's television show drew tens of thousands to Washington and to the steps of the Capitol within six days.

Amazingly, many of the reported 1.5 million who had travelled from across the country to the 9/12 Protest March less than two months earlier were back ready to make a 'house call' on Congress members before they voted on a two thousand page health care reform bill this weekend. Georgians mobilized through word of mouth, Facebook, and the One Year to Judgment Day Atlanta Tea Party announcing details of buses being filled and possible opportunities of car pooling. Congressman Phil Gingrey offered to pay the way for Brian Donnegan, founder Can Do Conservatives of America after meeting him at the Monday night event at the state capitol.

Donnegan is legally blind and wanted to join those departing for the Capitol to rally behind Bachmann's call to protest the bill:

"I sat on the right ledge of the Capitol behind the press corps. I did not have a sign with me but I held my cane up as if it were a sign many times. I am glad to have been there to be a voice for the disabled because we almost didn't have one on the stage on Thursday. Thanks to Chris Smith, who was the only speaker to mention the disabled and that will we be adversely affected by Pelosi's bill. I've come a long way in my fight but I still have a long way to go."

Dozens of Congress members joined their colleague from Wisconsin on the platform while key note speakers energized an already emotionally charged crowd. Academy award winning actor, John Voight, and bestselling author and talk radio host, Mark Levin challenged Americans to choose between tyranny or liberty much like coaches inspiring a football team before an anticipated rivalry. "See that building right there. You own that building!" (pointing to the Capitol building in the background). Not surprising that enthusiasm translated to the mass visitations inside and outside of the Capitol.

A 78 year old priest was carried from the doorway of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi's office days ago in protest of believed provisions concerning abortion. Father Norman Weslin and 11 other pro-lifers were arrested at Nancy Pelosi's office at #235 Cannon office building. The YouTube video was posted by pro life activist Randall Terry who is no stranger to civil protest and disobedience leading to arrests. However, today the majority of those lining the Canon building hallway were making a House call on the Speaker and other members of Congress to protest a perceived overhaul of the nation's health care system.

To complicate matters, supporters of the health care reform bill, some dressed in medical garb, chanted "Health care for all!" to which opponents countered, "Kill the Bill!"

The back and forth chanting continued sporadically while most stood quietly in lines to the doorway — others wandered in and out of Pelosi's office ripping strips of papers from a copy of the healthcare bill — the idea suggested at the rally. Capitol Police scurried back and forth talking to one another trying to calm the growing chants as well as they monitored activities. Several were escorted away by Capitol Police while others stood along the walls waiting to enter Pelosi's office, cameras in hand while media rolling tape.

Soon the hallway was cleared.

Outside other protesters waited for Congress members leaving the Capitol building in route to their offices across the street. Texas Representative, Ron Paul said, "This is great!" as he engaged with handshakes and picture taking opportunities by those congregated. When (D-CA) Maxine Waters exited the Capitol the reception was far less friendly. One woman lunged at her screaming her disgust with the legislation and shouting questions about her support of the bill. Her physical behavior toward the Congresswoman drew the attention of Capitol Police.

That's when another said, "Leave her alone" in an attempt to ward off a possible arrest and subsequent headline in the news labeling all the activists as angry, militant right wingers. Another lady misinterpreted my intervention and began taping what I said. She said later she thought I worked for Waters and apologized for being confrontational.

Outside the Cannon building, (D-NY) Scott Murphy ventured into the crowd for more than an hour listening to others scream, talk, and watch him move through the crowd. Again, a handful of protesters shook fingers toward him, yelled and interrupted his comments. In reality Murphy's smirks didn't help to quiet their emotions or concerns about his expected yes vote on the healthcare bill.

Just before midnight Murphy voted along party lines adding his vote to the slim margin of passage in favor of HR 3962 bill. For the Democrats and President Barack Obama its passage is a victory. For those who sacrificed to actively voice their opposition it is also a victory — Americans are speaking out holding elected officials accountable in a big way. The passage of HR by the House does not end the continuing saga of controlling costs and providing healthcare for Americans. The Senate still has to give its approval. So Tea Party activists will have plenty more opportunities to visit the Capitol as Congress continues to confront other polarizing issues such as energy, immigration, and the failing economy riddled by devastating job losses.

© Stella Lohmann


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)


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