News & Politics

Religious Right and Tea Party Nation Turn to Michele Bachmann in Desperate Attempt to Defeat Health-Care Bill

Quoting scripture, spouting lies and blowing dog-whistles to violence, the right wing's queen of crazy takes center stage in desperate, last-gasp fight against health-care reform.

In a last-ditch, desperate attempt to kill health-care reform, the captains of the religious right and the Tea Party Nation turned their lonely eyes to her -- the conservative queen of crazy, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn. -- and a supporting cast of angry white men.

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"So here we are; we're at the bottom of the ninth," Bachmann told a Capitol Hill gathering (video) of several hundred Tea Party protesters on Tuesday morning. "We've won every inning so far -- so that should feel pretty good."

"Yeah!" the crowd yelled back.

"All we have to do is to keep this up until Saturday," Bachmann said, "...and we are gonna kill the bill." Saturday is the day on which House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to call a vote on the health-care reform legislation. In order to do so, the House will have to pass the bill, as is, that passed the Senate on Christmas Eve. It will do so with a package of separately-passed "fixes" to the Senate bill that will be taken up in the Senate via a budget reconciliation process, which cannot be filibustered. That means the fix package can be passed on a simple majority of 51 votes, instead of the 60 required to end a filibuster.

If the size of the crowd around Bachmann on a beautiful Washington, D.C., morning was any indication, the grass roots of the Tea Party movement appeared to have thrown in the town on their opposition to health-care reform. While a similar rally led by Bachmann in November drew thousands to Capitol Hill, today's event, promoted by the astroturfing group, FreedomWorks, drew a mere fraction of that number. At the Tuesday rally, Bachmann held back on some of the more colorful rhetoric she displayed at a "Kill the Bill" rally she headlined in her home state on Saturday, at which she compared President Barack Obama and Pelosi to Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez, and declared Obama to be "the first post-American president."

And even though the likes of Glenn Beck now rejects the tale of disgraced former Rep. Eric Massa, D-N.Y., who claimed that allegations of sexual harassment against him were trumped up to force him out because he was going vote "no" on the health-care bill, Bachmann trotted out Massa's story as evidence of the brutality of  Democratic leaders who were beating their members into submission. Quoting a story in the New York Post, a right-wing paper once owned by Rupert Murdoch, she referred to the tactics of Nancy Pelosi as being akin to those of the television mafia family, the Sopranos. (Speaker Pelosi is Italian.) "If they can't get these congressmen to vote with sugar," she said, "now they're going to come in with sticks."

Bachmann also predicted that Pelosi would begin making ethics charges against Republicans come election time. That's what happens, she said, "if you cross Nancy Pelosi."

At the Minnesota rally, Bachmann decried the proposed use of a procedural maneuver called "deem and pass" that would provide cover for House members who do not wish to be on record voting for the Senate's version of the health-care bill, either because it is not progressive enough for some or, on the issue of insurance coverage for abortion, regressive enough for others. Use of the deem-and-pass procedure would have House members voting on their fixes to the Senate bill in a budget reconciliation package. Once they had done that, the Senate bill will have been "deemed" to have passed without a direct vote, by virtue of the passage of the reconciliation legislation. This, Bachmann said, was "dictatorial" and "tyranny." She contended it had never been done before (actually, it has -- and by Republicans), adding that the people would not be bound to obey a bill passed in this manner.

"We are not compelled to follow a non-law," Bachmann said, "just because Obama and Pelosi tell us we have to."

Bachmann's use of the word "tyranny" is right-wing code for the people's right to overthrow a despotic ruler -- by armed insurrection, if necessary. "The government is working against us," she told her followers.

While Bachmann stood alone at her Minnesota rally, the Tuesday gathering on Capitol Hill drew a handful of members of Congress, including Mike Pence, R-Ind. (whose presidential ambitions are not taken seriously enough by progressives, in my estimation), Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Louie Gohmert, R-Tex., who described the health-care bill as "an abortion," and complained of "demons" surrounding the bill. Employing another term for a bill enacted through deem-and-pass procedure -- a "self-executing bill" -- Gohmert said to the crowd, "You need to get used to saying this: Self-executing because that's what the people who vote for it will be doing. Say it with me: self-executing! Self-executing! And don't forget it!" (Think Progress has the video, via CNN.)

But if a big right-wing day in the battle against demons and phantom socialist tyrants begins with Michele Bachmann, it apparently must end with her, too. Not to be outdone by their secular Tea Party compatriots, the Family Research Council's political arm, FRCAction, Webcast an anti-health-care reform program for which Bachmann was the closer, arriving on the FRC set a bit breathless from a prior engagement on Fox Newschannel.

Throughout the Webcast, FRC President Tony Perkins implored his viewers to contact their members of Congress, which was easy to do thanks to a preloaded e-mail form that linked to the Webcast page. But he didn't stop there. Perkins even told FRC fans to contact their state representatives. In a segment featuring Bob Marshall, a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, Perkins had Marshall explain the bill he passed through the state legislature, which declares that Virginia rejects any federal health-insurance mandate, which is the foundation for the non-discrimination features of both the House and Senate bills. Marshall's argument is largely based on the states-rights claims of Tenth Amendment enthusiasts. (If Marshall's name sounds familiar to you, it may be that you recall his recent statement that disabled children are God's retribution for the sin of abortion.) Marshall's bill still awaits the signature of Gov. Bob McDonnell. Viewers were encouraged to demand similar legislation in their own states.

Much of the FRC Webcast was devoted to advancing the false claim that the Senate version of the health-care bill will funnel taxpayer dollars to subsidize health insurance that covers abortion. (Actually, anyone receiving a subsidy who wants abortion coverage must write a separate check for that coverage.) But abortion being a great rallying point for the religious right, why let the truth get in the way?

In addition to Marshall and Bachmann and a handful of staffers from right-wing organizations, Perkins also featured Pence and special guest Rep. David Vitter, R-La., whom certain ladies of the night know as John. Despite their staunch opposition to the (non-existent) federal funding for abortion they claim to be in the Senate bill, and despite their resignation to the fact that the Senate health-care reform bill is all but certain to pass the House, Vitter proudly proclaimed that all 41 Republican senators would stand together in preventing stronger anti-abortion language from passing with the reconciliation package once it reaches the Senate. (Any change to the Senate bill's abortion language will likely require a 60-vote super-majority, because, unlike the other things House members want to change in the Senate bill, it does not appear to qualify for the budget reconciliation procedure, which requires only a simple majority of 1.)

"And so I hope House Democrats understand that loud and clear," Vitter said.

Vitter's declaration makes it more difficult for the Stupak-style abortion opponents in the House to vote for the Senate bill, and will allow health-care opponents to continue their false claim that the Senate bill's less draconian language on abortion, when compared to the bill originally passed by the House, amounts to federal funding of abortion.

So convinced are Republicans that the anti-abortion language in the Senate bill amounts to this thing they so passionately oppose on principle that they're willing to overlook principle to see it pass into law -- because they think it will play well for them politically.

Enter Bachmann, who Perkins fawned over, thanking her for her "leadership." She thanked him back. "Well, you give us a reason to be here," Perkins said, "because we have folks we can work with."

"What can people do?" Perkins asked her.

"As the Bible says," Bachmann responded, "'the men of Issachar understood the times, and knew what to do."

What the men of Issachar knew to do was to kill King Saul of Israel and replace him with King David (1 Chronicles, 12:32). Among Saul's sins against Yahweh was his use of black magic.

"Call like crazy to Democrat members of Congress," Bachmann said. "Don't bother calling Republican offices -- every Republican in the House, every Republican in the Senate, has said they're voting 'no' on the bill." She went on to direct viewers to a page on the FRC Web site where viewers would find a list "of members who really could use a call."

Bachmann went on to contend that in the last 18 months, the federal government has "taken over 30 percent of the private economy." She dated it back to the Bush bank bailout, and subsequent rescues of the auto industry and the financial sector. The health-care bill, she said, would represent the government takeover of an additional 18 percent -- never mind that the government doesn't take over anything in the health-care bill, but instead enables existing ensurers to gain 30 million new customers.

To close out the show, Perkins brought in Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association, which is best known for its rabidly anti-gay activism. Perkins asked Fischer for some "action steps."

"Well, I think it is important, Tony, to re-emphasize the importance of prayer," Fischer said. "The Army of God is the only army that marches on its knees."

The Army of God is also the name of an anti-abortion group that advocates the murder of doctors who perform abortions.

"We understand that there are powerful spiritual forces at work here," Fischer continued. "Abortion is the ultimate spiritual issue. Satan is the god of death. God is the God of life. So, we need to be in prayer about this."

But then, he said, you need to contact your congressman. After that, he said, get in touch with your state representative "and urge them to pass a 10th Amendment bill."

I'm surprised he didn't suggest that they clean their guns.







Adele M. Stan is AlterNet's Washington bureau chief.