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Republican lawmakers stir up the 'tea party' crowd

The House of Representatives passed landmark legislation to overhaul the nation's health-care system, approving a Senate bill and a separate package of amendments.

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The legislators were making such a ruckus on the floor that they couldn't hear the ruckus just outside their walls. The tea-party demonstrators chanted "Nancy! Nancy!" and held signs saying such things as "Red Queen Nancy -- Joseph Stalin Was Not a Saint."

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That would have been the end of it, had Republican lawmakers not stirred things up. First Reps. Buck McKeon (Calif.), Rob Bishop (Utah) and Mike Turner (Ohio) came out waving signs saying "KILL THE BILL." The crowd went wild. Reps. Mary Fallin (Okla.), Geoff Davis (Ky.) and Bill Posey (Fla.) held the "Don't Tread on Me" flag, and Rep. Pete Sessions (Tex.), head of the House Republicans' 2010 campaign committee, came out with half a dozen colleagues and more kill-the-bill signs. Rep. Jeff Miller (Fla.) dangled an American flag from the balcony.

"That's kind of fun," Fallin said cheerfully after a turn at riling the crowd with signs saying "No" in red letters.

Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner (N.Y.), crashing his Republican colleagues' mischief, went out on the balcony and waved. "I feel like Mussolini now!" he said as the crowd booed him.

The noise continued, inside and outside, late into the night. Inside the chamber, civil rights icon Lewis, brushing off the slurs that the demonstrators had sent his way, went into the well. "On this day, on this moment, in this chamber, answer the call of history!" he urged colleagues.

Outside, the demonstrators offered an answer to such appeals. They arranged themselves on the lawn to spell the word "NO."

By the time Minority Leader John Boehner took the floor at about 10 pm, the mood on the floor was barely distinguishable from the mood on the lawn outside. "Shame on each and every one of you," the Republican leader yelled at the Democrats, as the GOP lawmakers gave him a standing ovation. Boehner said the Democrats were a "disgrace" to Jeffersonian values.

"Hell, no, you can't!" Boehner shouted at the Democrats.

"No, you can't! No, you can't!" echoed the protesters outside.

But they could. And at 10:45 p.m., after 14 months of trying, 219 Democrats finally did.


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