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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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Listen to Oklahoma's Coburn, responding to a woman at an August town-hall meeting; she was sobbing because the company that insured her husband cut off his nursing-home care after a brain injury, sending him to her care with a feeding tube in his chest and no coverage for the equipment or training she would need to care for him. Nor would they pay for a speech pathologist or a physical therapist who could teach him how to eat and drink again.

After telling his constituent that his office will help her, as an individual, to navigate the system, Coburn added this: "But the other thing that’s missing in this debate is us as neighbors, helping people that need our help. ... The idea that the government is the solution to our problems is an inaccurate, a very inaccurate, statement."

God will provide. Or your neighbors will. Whatever you get, that's what God wanted for you.

South Carolina's DeMint told a reporter from his hometown newspaper, the Charleston Post and Courier, "I think health care is a privilege. I wouldn't call it a right. ..." On the House side, Family member Zach Wamp of Tennessee told MSNBC's Tameron Hall virtually the same thing in March: "Health care is a privilege." As described on the NBC blog First Read, "Zach Wamp, the always self-assured Tennessee congressman, was on MSNBC this morning, railing against any health care reform effort, calling it a move toward 'socialism' and that Obama was engaging in almost 'class warfare.' "

As Oklahoma's luck would have it, both the state's U.S. senators belong to The Family. While other lawmakers complained they hadn't been given time to read the weighty health care bills on which they were to vote, Inhofe seemed untroubled by that dilemma: his religion would appear to demand that he oppose health care reform as a matter of principle.

As a government disruption of God's free markets, the very concept, by The Family's reckoning, is an abomination. At an August town-hall meeting, Inhofe told residents of Chickasha, Okla., according to the Express-Star of Grady County, that "he does not need to read the 1,000-page health care reform bill, he will simply vote against it." Inhofe explained: "I don't have to read it, or know what's in it. I'm going to oppose it anyways." 

Later in the meeting, the senator elaborated. "People are not buying these concepts that are completely foreign to America," Inhofe said. "We're almost reaching a revolution in this country." And when you think about what a revolution means to members of The Family -- Savimbi, Pinochet -- that's enough to give one pause.

Appearing on C-SPAN's Washington Journal last month, Inhofe was asked by a caller to explain what bearing, if any, his religion had on his politics. "I'm a follower of Jesus," he said, "and I’m not embarrassed about it."


UPDATE: As noted above, after this story posted, John Hart, director of communications for Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., returned my call. As one might expect, he takes issue with my characterization of The Family as depicted in this essay.  For starters, Hart asserted that "there's a tremendous disparity in economic policy positions" among the senators who take part in Family activities. Hart cited the example of Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who, after a long silence on health-care reform, voted in favor of the Finance Committee bill. (Nelson is one of a handful of Democrats associated with The Family. The overwhelming character of the group is Republican.)

Hart took issue with my emphasis on The Family's doctrine of "biblical capitalism" as a theological principle that governs the policy aims of some members. "That’s a term I’ve never heard [Sen. Coburn] use," Hart said. "That’s not a serious theological term."