Tough Progressive Congressman Alan Grayson Is Putting the Fear in Republicans
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Washington Republicans are horrified, horrified, horrified by the bluntness of Florida Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson.
The tough kid from the Bronx (and Harvard Law School) who represents an until recently Republican Orlando-area district pulled no punches Tuesday, when he declared on the House floor: "The Republican health care plan is this: Don't get sick, and if you do get sick, die quickly."
After his GOP colleagues recovered from the shock of a Democrat actually calling them out, they demanded an apology.
Grayson returned to the House floor to announce that: "I would like to apologize, I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this holocaust in America."
So unfamiliar with the notion that a Democrat might actually take the healthcare debate seriously enough to try and win it, the Republicans presumed that Grayson had gone off the deep end. The National Republican Congressional Committee screeched: "This is an unstable man who has come unhinged. The depths to which Alan Grayson will sink to defend his indefensible comments know no bounds."
NRCC spokesman Ken Spain claimed in an interview with the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill that: "This is an individual who has established a pathological pattern of unstable behavior."
Grayson hasn't cracked.
The former assistant (on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to current U.S. Supreme Court Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia, and conservative judicial icon Robert Bork) is dealing in facts.
Indeed, the Harvard grad has seized on a study produced by researchers at his old school that details how 44,000 Americans die annually because they lack health insurance. And he is laughing off a Republican attempt to formally condemn his choice of words.
Georgia GOP Congressman Tom Price does not think it is fair for a Democrat to counter months of Republican hyperbole with actual statistics. So the Georgian has drafted a resolution that accuses Grayson of committing "a breach of decorum and (degrading) the integrity and proceedings of the House."
Grayson's response: "A resolution like that doesn't save one human being's life."
The resolution has yet to be introduced and is unlikely to get far in the overwhelmingly Democratic House. Like the silly Democratic resolution seeking objecting to South Carolina Republican Congressman Joe Wilson's boorish behavior during President Obama's address to the Joint Session of Congress, Price's proposal is a meaningless exercise.
Yet, Grayson's more cautious colleagues in the Democratic caucus (notably caucus chair John Larson of Connecticut) say they'll urge their Jewish colleague to back away from some of his remarks -- especially a Holocaust reference that, while on-point to the view of those who see the denial of healthcare to the sick as an act of brutality, seemed gratuitous and unnecessary to politicians who are ill at ease with such passionate language.
Grayson, whose official biography begins with a telling quotation from the Torah ("Justice, justice, ye shall seek..."), shows no signs of backing down.
The congressman, who beat an entrenched Republican incumbent in 2008 and is confident he'll win again in 2010 (perhaps with some support from libertarian Republicans who appreciate his loose alliance with 2008 GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul on issues of holding Federal Reserve bankers to account) says he is hearing a lot more praise than criticism
"People are calling us from all over the country to congratulate us for telling the truth," says Grayson. "People are happy to see a Democrat with guts."
In fact, Grayson has a lot to teach a Democratic caucus that has not begun to fight for health care reform.
While Republicans have been waging a war against reform, Democrats have been in duck-and-cover mode -- until now.
Grayson may sound a little over-the-top to some Capitol insiders.
Some of his language may unsettle even his allies.
But to Americans who this week witnessed the revolting rejection by Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee of even mild reforms like the proposed "public option," the Florida congressman's words will sound like the sanest message coming not just from his side of the aisle but from all of official Washington.