WASHINGTON -- William Gunn is angry about big government, the bailouts, and especially the big health care package President Obama signed earlier this week -- so much so, that the Western Massachusetts resident came all the way to Washington, DC and got himself arrested Sunday night after heckling lawmakers in the House gallery.
Gunn, by the way, works for the town of Palmer and administers federal grants for a living.
“It’s sort of ironic,” said the 48-year-old Gunn, who is scheduled to come back for a court appearance in the nation’s capital next month.
Gunn said he did not regret having made a disturbance in the House chamber and isn’t worried about what his government employer may think of his arrest. “I’m very open about my politics in town,” Gunn said in an interview, adding that he writes occasional opinion piece for local newspapers.
Gunn, who lives in Ware, was arrested with David Sanders of Wilbraham after yelling “kill the bill!” from the visitors gallery into the House chamber on Sunday evening, when the House was enmeshed in a bitter debate over the health care package. The measure was approved just before midnight that night.
The two were charged with obstruction of Congress.
Gunn administers Community Development Block Grants (CDBGs), a federal program meant to spur local economic development.
“Absolutely, it is” a “big government” program, Gunn acknowledged. But “if I lost my job because they didn’t have it any longer, I’d be fine with that,” he said.
Gunn said he hadn’t been involved in politics at all until former President Bush initiated the bank bailout last year. President Obama’s election, the ensuing auto industry bailout and the health care package, aggravated Gunn’s anti-government ire.
“I was just lazy, dumb and happy, sitting at home and letting things take care of themselves,” Gunn said. But after seeing Representative Steven King, Republican of Iowa, encourage Americans to try to defeat the health care package, Gunn said he decided to come to DC and make a last-ditch stand against it.
He visited numerous congressional offices, including that of his own congressman, Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat of Springfield. Gunn said Neal’s office was closed, but staffers opened it when they realized someone was on the other side of the door. He said they were “polite” but “dismissive,” and that he did not get a chance to speak directly to the lawmaker.
Neal declined to comment about the incident.
King said he was ``confident'' that he remembered Gunn in teh chgamber that evening, but wished Gunn had waited until he got outside to be so vocal.
King praised ``the people who came to Washington,'' but added, ``I just regret that his emotions got ahold of him at that time.'' King added that he plans a media blitz against the health care package in his home state of Iowa during the congressional break.
Gunn criticized House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, for “arrogantly walk through” the crowd of anti-health care demonstrators on Sunday to go to the House chamber. “It’s almost as if she was trying to incite people to do something,” Gunn said, adding that it was “normal protocol” for lawmakers to travel through underground tunnels to the Capitol. In fact, in the warm weather, many lawmakers in both parties make the outdoor walk from their satellite offices to the House and Senate chambers.
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.