View Full Version : Scenes From the Capitol in the Final Showdown Over Health Care Reform("Chaos Reigns")

03-21-2010, 08:02 PM
4:25 p.m. WASHINGTON—Chaos reigns at the Capitol. It's just hard to say whether it's crazier outside the building or inside.

As House Democrats began the final slog toward voting on health care reform—an 11-step process that began at noon Sunday—protesters gathered on the Capitol's south lawn, waving signs and chanting, "Kill the bill!" and "Naaaaancy!" Republican members of Congress periodically emerged and waved from the balcony, to cheers.

Rep. Steve King, R-N.Y., dangled a "Don't Tread on Me" flag, while another Republican held up a giant "No!" sign. Some Democrats braved the hordes, as well:

Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., ventured out and got booed. Earlier, Nancy Pelosi linked arms with the Democratic leadership and Rep. John Lewis and walked across the Capitol plaza while protesters called her "a disgrace to your office."
That suspense quickly dissipated at 4 p.m. today, when Stupak announced that he would be voting for the bill and that his coalition of anti-abortion Democrats would likely push Nancy Pelosi over the 216-vote threshold necessary to pass the bill.

"We are well past 216," he told reporters at a press conference. The final straw: A promise by President Obama to sign an executive order prohibiting federal funds from being spent on abortion in the health care exchanges.

The crowd outside, however, wasn't buying it. Ben Grace of Culpeper, Va., took issue with the notion that Obama can control federal funds by executive order. "If he can sign an executive order knocking down that law, why can't he do that for any law he wants?"

When news of Stupak's switch reached the protesters, a new chant erupted: "We want Stupak!"

Other protesters acknowledged that the bill would pass but argued that the consequences will be severe. "I think it could get really ugly," said Leslie Howard-Redwik of Knox, Ind.

"Like, in a National Guard sense." Grace pointed out that his home state of Virginia has promised to sue the federal government, claiming it can't force people to buy health insurance.

Another thing that bothers Grace: The prospect of the federal government accessing his health records. "If my doctor divulges this, I'll sue his pants off," he says.