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
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
artCultural relations between Sydney and Melbourne soured by row over milk crate art instillation
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations should be regarded as an offensive act
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleBenidorm, actor was just 68
News
people
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Supply teaching - A great w...

Training Programme Manager (Learning and Development)-London

£28000 - £32000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manage...

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices