August 8, 2009 in Nation/World

Health reform threat reported

Aide says caller menaced lawmaker
Dina Cappiello Associated Press
 

WASHINGTON – A North Carolina congressman who supports an overhaul of the health care system had his life threatened by a caller upset that he was not holding a public forum on the proposal, his office said Friday.

Democratic Rep. Brad Miller received the call Monday, one of hundreds the congressman’s office has fielded demanding town-hall meetings on the health care proposal, said his spokeswoman, LuAnn Canipe. She said the callers were “trying to instigate town halls so they can show up and disrupt.”

“We had one of those kind of calls that escalated to what we considered a threat” on the congressman’s life, said Canipe. “These are some strong-arm tactics, and we are trying to deal with and trying to talk to people in good faith about health care reform.”

Democratic lawmakers expected protests and demonstrations as they headed back to their states and districts over the August recess to sell health care reform legislation. Earlier this week, White House officials counseled Democratic senators on coping with disruptions at public events this summer.

In the week since the House began its break, several town-hall meetings have already been disrupted by noisy demonstrators.

The latest occurrence was at back-to-back town hall meetings held by Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., which got so raucous police had to escort people out.

The boos, jeers and shouts of “Shame on you!” at the events in a gym in Romulus, Mich., mirror what other Democrats are encountering around the country. Activists have shown up at town-hall meetings held recently by Arlen Specter, D-Pa. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was greeted by about 200 protesters at an event in Denver, about half supporting Democrats and half opposed.

The episodes have drawn widespread media attention, and Republicans have seized on them as well as polls showing a decline in support for President Barack Obama and his agenda as evidence that public support is lacking for his signature legislation.

The threatening caller, when told by a staffer that Miller was not planning a meeting, claimed the congressman didn’t want to meet with people face to face because he knew it would cost him his life, according to Canipe. The staffer then asked if the caller was making a threat. The caller, said Canipe, replied that there are a lot of angry people out there.

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