WASHINGTON -- It was a protest cry that could only be shouted in Washington, DC.
“Stop reconciliation now!” yelled a man outside of Blair House today, railing against a legislative process and concept generally not discussed -- let alone protested -- outside the wonky walls of the US Capitol.
The man, carrying a sign that said, “Jesus Loves All Babies,” was referring to the possibility that a health care package will be added to a budget reconciliation bill. Budget bills require just a majority vote to be approved, and cannot be filibustered, as Republicans are threatening to do if the health bill is brought back to the Senate floor.
Other played to historical fears, with signs depicting President Obama with a Hitler-esque mustache. A half-dozen others went with the office-poster look of a photograph of an actual pig in makeup. “You Can Put Lipstick on a Pig -- It's still a Pig. Barack Obama, 9-9-08,” the signs said.
The protesters -- who came out more than an hour before Obama and lawmakers were scheduled to show up for their day-long health care huddle -- said they wanted to urge the president and members of Congress to scrap the measure that's been developed over the past year and start all over again.
“We're not against reform. We're protesting what is really a charade, not a summit,” said Nancy Pfotenhauer, 46, of Virginia and a member of Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group. Americans “want a clean slate. They do not like the massive government takeover option,” Pfotenhauer said.
Police moved the demonstrators across the street mid-morning, and they were quickly met by counter-protestors who demanded universal health care. A fierce verbal confrontation ensued on the narrow sidewalk, but no physical battles occurred. “Kill the bill! Kill the bill!” a smattering of protestors yelled, seeking to drown out their counterparts.
The pro-health care overhaul team, meanwhile, argued for a single payer system, expanding Medicare to cover all people. “Why the Summit Stall? Medicare for All!” their signs read.
Estrella Chaules of Sudbury, Mass., said she was disappointed that Obama hadn't been stronger in pushing a single-payer system. [Obama promised in his campaign a health care overhaul to provide near-universal coverage, but said a single-payer system would be politically impossible and too disruptive.]
“I think we need health care for all, and I'm just sorry that president Obama has forgotten or reneged on his promise to give universal health care for all,” said Chaules, who is 67 and retired. Chaules said her sister lives in Canada and received “great” health care there.
“Why can't we do the same? Why shouldn't we even be better? There are people who need health care who can't get it any other way.” she said.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.