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Meet the Senators in the Creepy Right-Wing Cult Trying to Defeat Health Care Reform

The Family has spent decades consolidating power within the GOP and may have come to dominate the party even among those who do not belong to the cult.

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It's that theology that led The Family, over the years, to aid and abet such dictators as Haiti's Francois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, Indonesia's Haji Muhammad Suharto, Chile's Augusto Pinochet, and the brutal Angolan rebel Jonas Savimbi, who among them killed more than a million people.

The Family seems to be fond of "revolutions" of a particular type: Those that overthrow socialists or any kind of leftists, even those, like Chile's Salvador Allende, who were democratically elected. As Jeff Sharlet explains in his masterful book, The Family, "God chooses his key men according to His concerns, not ours ..."

Other Family members, identified as such by Sharlet, loom large in the health care debate. Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said right-wingers could "break" Obama by defeating health care reform. Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., told NBC's David Gregory that members of Congress had "earned" the threats of violence they were receiving at town-hall meetings focused on the health care bill.

After Grassley and Enzi succeeded in dragging out Senate Finance Committee negotiations through the summer, Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., threatened to slow the committee's mark-up session by offering 30 amendments to the bill, most of them deemed "nuisance amendments" by opponents.

And Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., characterized the entire health care bill -- not just the contested public option -- as creating a "socialized" system. One of The Family's few Democratic members, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida, seems to have felt his loyalties torn by health care reform, refusing  to stake a position on the Finance Committee bill until the 11th hour.

In the House, Family members Zach Wamp, R-Tenn., Joe Pitts, R-Penn., and Frank Wolf, R-Va., rank high among health care obstructionists. So, too, does Democrat Bart Stupak of Michigan, who, with Pitts, is trying to derail the House bill by gumming up the works with a proposal that would virtually eliminate any private plans that offer coverage for abortion from health care exchanges.

While it's tempting to look to the amount of campaign donations received by these lawmakers from the health sector as the reason for their knee-jerk opposition to heath care reform, that doesn't tell the whole story.

While many of these Family members indeed enjoy the largess of donors from health care concerns, few have reaped as much as the $534,141 from the health sector collected by Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., in his last election. Baucus may have overseen the crafting of a bad health care bill, but it's still a health care bill for which he will likely vote -- which is more than you can say for nearly all of The Family's key men on the Hill. 

And campaign donations from the health sector fail to account for the opposition of Inhofe, for whom the health sector doesn't even rank among the top five industries from which he draws his funding.

I called the offices of Coburn, Enzi, DeMint and Grassley for comment on how, or if, their faith informs their position on health care reform. At press time, none had returned my call.   [ UPDATE: After this story posted, I received a call from John Hart, director of communications for Sen. Coburn, who disputes my characterization of The Family as it appears in this essay. While he did confirm that Coburn takes part in The Family's weekly prayer meeting, and that he lives in The Family's C Street residence, he also took issue with the notion that Coburn is "an associate" of The Family. Coburn, he said, "is active in the group." More from this conversation and a subsequent e-mail exchange will appear shortly at the end of this piece.]