First the healthcare victory, now come the death threats

Supporters targeted as Congress wrestles over final details of landmark reform

Democratic and Republican leaders yesterday condemned the abuse, threats and episodes of vandalism directed against almost a dozen – mostly Democratic – lawmakers, as radical opponents continue to vent their fury against the health reform package voted into law at the weekend.

The ugly new turn in the healthcare debate came as the Senate passed the budget reconciliation House of Representatives prepared to vote on the supplementary package of fixes to the bill signed by President Obama on Tuesday.

These were approved by the Senate earlier yesterday, with the exception of two small changes relating to student grants that necessitated last night's second and conclusive House vote.

Mr Obama meanwhile went to Iowa to promote the greatest achievement of his presidency, returning to the state where he had launched his drive for an overhaul of the US healthcare system. The White House was taking heart yesterday from a new Gallup poll suggesting that by a 49-40 majority, Americans now considered passage of the measure "a good thing" – a first sign perhaps of a swing in the national mood in favour of the measure once it became law, which the administration had been hoping for.

But these successes have been eclipsed by the decidedly nasty, personally menacing attacks that have seen 10 House Democrats and at least one Republican report threatening letters, emails and phone calls, as well as attacks on their district offices and local party headquarters. On Wednesday, more than 100 Democratic Congressmen met to express their "serious concern" about their security. Some have been provided special protection by the Capitol Hill police.

In one case, a brick was thrown through the window of the district office of Democratic Congresswoman Louise Slaughter in Niagara Falls, in upstate New York, while Bart Stupak, the conservative Democrat whose deal with the White House on abortion funding curbs provided the crucial last few votes for passage of the bill, was inundated with abuse.

"I hope you bleed, get cancer and die," was the message left by one caller on his answering machine. A fax arriving at his Congressional office carried a photo of "Mr 'SS' Stupak," alongside a picture of a noose, and the words, "All Baby Killers come to unseemly ends, Either by the hand of man or by the hand of God."

Both parties condemned what was happening, with Republican House leader John Boehner telling reporters that while the measure was a colossal mistake, such protests were beyond the pale. The way to overturn the bill, he said, was "Repeal and Replace" - using grass-roots activism and this November's mid-term elections to create Republican majorities on Capitol Hill.

Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, declared that violence and physical threats had "no place in a civil debate in our country," before adding that she did "not subscribe to the theory that these acts sprang from the comments of my colleagues". Many Democrats however believe precisely that: that vitriolic rhetoric from many Republicans has fanned the flames, inciting extreme opponents of the health reform to take the law into their own hands.

In particular, the controversy has focused attention on the relationship between the Republicans and the anti-government Tea Party movement, which made healthcare reform its top target.

Tea Party supporters were among the crowd outside the Capitol building on Saturday which hurled vicious racial and homophobic slurs against several prominent House Democrats as they passed by on their way inside into the chamber. Initially some Republicans appeared to condone these outbursts, reinforcing the impression the party would stop at nothing in its determination to "Kill the Bill", whatever the cost. This is strenuously denied by Republican leaders, and there is no sign of a co-ordinated campaign behind the vandalism and abuse.

No Viagra for rapists: Republicans' last stand

Among the arcane procedural challenges and finer legal points of the healthcare bill's final stages, one particular Republican move stood out: Amendment 3,556 to HR 4,872: "No Erectile Dysfunction Drugs to Sex Offenders."

The proposed amendment was the handiwork of Senator Tom Coburn, the Republican from Oklahoma, and it stood among 11 additions he had filed to join the already myriad clauses of the Democrats' healthcare bonanza. "If this bill goes through without this amendment, your tax dollars are going to be paying for Viagra for child molesters," Coburn solemnly told the Senate.

Democrats were predictably unimpressed with a change that they viewed as emblematic of frivolous Republican attempts to derail the bill. "Offering an amendment dealing with Viagra for rapists?" spluttered majority leader Harry Reid. "This isn't serious."

The amendments are aimed at forcing Democrats, who want to pass the bill without additional clauses, to vote down amendments which will ultimately prove politically costly. Others included a proposed referendum on gay marriage, and an attempt to force the government to defund Acorn, the community organisation accused of fraudulent voter registration – which is already defunct. Even John McCain decried the tactic. Most Democrats' views were summed up by Senator Max Baucus. "It's a crass political stunt aimed at making 30-second commercials," he said. "Not public policy."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special
tv
News
Claudia Winkleman and co-host Tess Daly at the Strictly Come Dancing final
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
people
Sport
SPORT
News
people
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Biggins as Mrs Smee in Peter Pan
theatreHow do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick