Activists bring 'tea party' to Capitol Hill

House Democrats' health bill denounced as 'Pelosi-Care'

Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 6, 2009

With the stage set for a historic House vote on health-care reform this weekend, an estimated 10,000 conservative activists descended on Capitol Hill on Thursday for a campaign-style rally in a last-ditch effort to defeat a bill they demonized as "Pelosi-Care."

Newly emboldened after Republican victories in Tuesday's elections, "tea party" protesters and other demonstrators from across the country converged on the Capitol's West Lawn to wave flags, ring cowbells and deliver a blunt message to lawmakers: "Kill this bill!" Later, hundreds of activists stormed congressional offices in an attempt to turn wavering Democrats against the bill.

Many demonstrators said they trekked to Washington to stop a health-care overhaul they describe as runaway government spending. Angry at the growing federal deficit and the expanding role of government, they likened President Obama's top domestic priority to socialized medicine and unleashed their ire on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

"Stop Pelosi's madness!" they chanted, some holding colorful signs that read: "Waterboard Congress," "No Socialistic Health Care" and "Taxpayer Revolt."

Scott Krafft, 51, an investment consultant from Fort Wayne, Ind., drove 10 hours overnight with his wife and three children in their Honda Odyssey to attend what he said was their first political rally. As Krafft and his family grooved to Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down," he said he was inspired by listening to Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) on Sean Hannity's radio show.

"She inspired me to take action, to make my voice heard and to demonstrate that in our country we have the freedom of political expression," Krafft said.

"We want to keep capitalism and individual responsibility at the center of our society," he added. "The principles of our founding are being eroded very quickly."

Bachmann and a parade of Republican House leaders and rank-and-file members employed fiery rhetoric on the Capitol steps and pledged to do everything they could to defeat the bill.

"You came! You came to your House!" said Bachmann, who organized the "Hands Off Our Health Care!" rally this week with impassioned pleas on conservative talk radio and cable television shows.

"Quite simply, the Republicans don't have enough votes to kill this bill," Bachmann said. "We knew we were limited. But what we knew was unlimited were the voices of persuasion of the American people."

But the protesters' message came as supporters of health-care reform won endorsements from the AARP, the nation's largest group of people over 50, and from the American Medical Association. "While the 'Party of No' held a rally to once again say no, our health insurance reform bill was endorsed by the AARP and the AMA," Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said.

Democratic National Committee spokesman Hari Sevugan said: "It's their extreme right-wing, rigid ideological agenda that has Americans leaving the Republican Party in droves -- and so, if displays like today are what they think is a smart political strategy, all we can say is: Go for it."

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