It's pretty much official now. The GOP, in whole and in part, has gone completely over the high side in the aftermath of the House's successful passage of President Obama's health care reform package. Angry, bitter and frustrated has made way for deranged, deluded and dangerous within the minds and souls of that particular crowd. I went into pretty specific detail on Monday about some of the stunts the Right has been pulling since the bill passed - hateful slurs in Congressional hallways, assassination threats against Obama - but if you can believe it, matters got even more severe as the week went on.
Carl Paladino, a billionaire New York Republican and candidate for governor, compared passage of the bill to the attacks of September 11. "The day that bill was passed will be remembered just as 9-11 was remembered in history," he said to a local radio station. "It was an attempt by these people in Washington to defy the Constitution." The comparison drew an immediate rebuke from Donna Marsh O'Connor, whose daughter was killed in the attacks. "It is despicable if in someone's mind those events are analogous," she said. "That is not a person who should be a leader of our country, of a state, of a city, of any community. Once again 9-11 is being exploited for political gain. Our family members are tools, not human beings who lost their lives and left behind wounds that will never heal."
A self-described Teabagger named Mike Troxel, head of the Lynchburg, Virginia, Tea Party, published the home address of Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello, and invited fellow 'Baggers to "drop by" and provide a "personal touch" to their opinions on the subject of health care reform. There's only one problem: Troxel published the address of Perriello's brother, whose household includes a wife and four children under the age of eight.
On Wednesday afternoon, Politico.com reported the gas line to Perriello's brother's house was cut. "Law enforcement authorities are investigating the discovery of a cut propane gas line at the Virginia home of Rep. Thomas Perriello's (D-Virginia) brother, whose address was targeted by tea party activists angry at the congressman's vote for the health care bill," wrote Andy Barr. "An aide to the congressman confirmed to Politico that a line to a propane tank behind his brother's home near Charlottesville had been sliced. The FBI would not disclose the details of the incident but said that they have been to the home."
The glass door of Arizona Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Gifford's office was smashed out after she voted in favor of the bill. It has yet to be determined if the glass was shattered with a pellet gun, or was kicked in. A rock was thrown through the window of a Democratic office in Knox County, Ohio, and more windows were smashed at a Democratic office in Kansas. Worst of all may be what happened in New York: Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-New York) had a brick thrown through the window of her office, and another brick shattered the glass doors of a Democratic Party office in Rochester. According to Slaughter, the attacks came with a phone message in which someone threatened to assassinate the children of any officials who vote in favor of the health care bill.
Just so we're clear, that's two instances we know of where children have been threatened with death over the passage of this legislation.
The derangement has not by any stretch been limited to the street-level activities of the Outraged Right. The entire Republican infrastructure appears to have been suffused with the heady fumes of Teabagger madness. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) wants to throw the constitutional baby out with the bathwater and repeal the 17th Amendment so that state legislatures can appoint senators instead of allowing the people to vote. "Ever since the safeguard of State legislatures electing U.S. Senators was removed by the 17th Amendment in 1913, there has been no check or balance on the Federal power grab for the last 97 years" he claimed in a press release. "Article V requires a minimum of 34 states to request a Convention which in this case, would be an Amendment Convention for only ONE amendment."
Gohmert's fellow Congressional Republicans appear to be planning a similar rush to the ramparts as the health care bill moves into the reconciliation phase in the Senate. According to Wednesday's Washington Post:
In the short term, GOP senators are aiming to gut the "fixes" package, a 150-page addendum to the new health-care law. Because the fixes bill was written under special budget reconciliation rules, it cannot be filibustered. But Republicans vowed to take full advantage of their right to offer unlimited amendments, intending to sabotage the package and create turmoil among Democrats who are counting on its passage.
Republicans also launched a broader campaign to "repeal and replace" the new law, an initiative aimed at wooing voters in this fall's midterm elections. The pledge was quickly endorsed by GOP candidates including Carly Fiorina, who is challenging Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) in California, and Jane Norton, who is seeking to unseat Sen. Michael Bennet (D) in Colorado.
Republicans have two goals this week: to use reconciliation rules to strike sections of the package and to offer amendments that prove impossible for Democrats to resist. If the fixes bill is changed in any way, it must return to the House for another vote. House members insisted on the bill as a condition of their passing the Senate's health-care bill, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is expected to keep the chamber in session until Friday in case additional action is necessary. Congress is scheduled to recess for two weeks starting this weekend.
Unfortunately for them, this strategy - much like every other half-witted, hate-filled, fear-spraying tactic they've employed to date - appears doomed to failure. Senate Parliamentarian Alan Frumin decided on Monday that the health care legislation does not contain any poison pills Republicans could use to throw it back to the House. "Had he sided with Republicans," reported ABC News, "the entire set of fix-its would have been ruled out of order and Democrats would have had to muster 60 votes - they are at least one short - to bypass him." True to form, Senate Republicans ignored the fact that Frumin was appointed during a Republican Congressional majority and accused him of "working for Harry Reid."
Even the last refuge for the GOP - claims that the American people are against this bill - has begun to visibly erode. A USA Today/Gallup poll taken immediately after the House passed the bill showed a nine-point favorability bump for the legislation. By 49 percent to 40 percent, the American people say passing this bill was a good thing. To make matters worse, many of the bill's provisions which will go into effect immediately are broadly popular with the American people, making an already uphill battle to repeal the legislation in the courts even more difficult.
For many months now, I and others have watched closely as the Republican Party has gone to war with itself. Conservatives like David Frum have warned that if the party goes along with screechers like Limbaugh and Beck, if they jump on the Teabagger bandwagon and ride it with all the berserk ferocity that crowd is capable of, they will rue the day. Republican lawmakers, for their part, have been stuck between a rock and an insane place: they can resist the gravitational pull of their party base's insanity and get challenged by Tea Party candidates in the primaries (which is already happening all over the country), or they can dive right in and hope for the best.
Well, now the people they've embraced are throwing rocks through windows and threatening to kill children, and their best legislative efforts are exploding into dust all around them. They are pretty much down to praying for rain in November of 2010.