The House of Representatives is poised Saturday to take up its health care bill. With every step this legislation takes toward becoming law, the fervor — on both sides — gets stronger.
This week, the Capitol became the stage of an intense drama, the arches and columns its proscenium. Each party in the House unveiled its final health care proposal and immediately attacked the other's.
Republicans opened a health care reading room — a long table with highlighters, pens and stacks of paper perfectly placed to appear carelessly strewn around after serious study. Republican conference chairman Mike Pence urged his colleagues to go there to read the bill.
"When they do, we believe it will become obvious that this is nothing more than a government takeover of health care," Pence said.
Not to be outdone, Democrats opened their own reading room, led by Florida's Debbie Wasserman Schultz, to criticize the Republicans' bill.
"Their collection of proposals won't even end discrimination based on pre-existing conditions," Wasserman Schultz said. "I mean, that is the bare minimum that everyone in America, essentially, agrees should be part of any health care reform proposal."
On Thursday, conservatives involved in anti-tax tea party groups called their supporters to a rally on the Capitol lawn. Minnesota's Michele Bachmann, a House Republican, called it the final hour.
"As the clock is ticking 11:59 on this health care reform, Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi is poised with her health care bill to takeover 18 percent of the American economy," she said as her supporters chanted: "Kill the bill! Kill the bill!"
Abortion As An Issue
In a House office building, anti-abortion protesters, including Diana Rocco-Grandy, gathered outside Pelosi's personal office.
"I'm dressed as Nancy Pelosi burning in hell," Rocco-Grandy said, explaining her getup. "So I have a suit on that's singed and covered in blood, and I have chains on, and I had dead babies draped from me."
Rocco-Grandy is angry that the bill doesn't explicitly ban all federal funding for abortion.
"If Nancy Pelosi doesn't repent, and we pray that she does repent, and that she removes funding for child-killing from the health care bill," she said. "But if she does not, then she would be in danger of going to hell for forcing taxpayers also to pay for the murder of children."
Also outside Pelosi's office were people from Code Pink, the liberal group led by activist Medea Benjamin.
"We have hospital gowns on, and when we turn around, you see our bare buns," Benjamin said.
Her group carried signs that said, "Chances Are Your [Rump] Isn't Covered" — except the signs didn't use the word "rump."
"With our health care system now, there are not only 47 million people who have no health insurance, but a lot of people have such inadequate health insurance that their bare butt is not covered when they need it," Benjamin said.
Supporters shouted, "Health care for all," while protesters chanted, "Kill the bill."
The result was a noisy drama, a clash of political theater building up to Saturday's floor action.