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There is a tradition in Congress of referring to members as “gentlemen” and “gentle ladies.” But recent bipartisan offenses on the floor of the House of Representatives have put members in anything but a polite mood with each other.
The most recent example comes from the gentleman from Florida Democrat Alan Grayson who excoriated Republicans for what he said was their refusal to work toward a solution on health care reform. Grayson spoke from the well of the chamber Tuesday and presented three posters that he said detailed the Republican Health Care Plan. They read: 1. Don’t get sick. 2. If you do get sick. 3. Die quickly.
The gentleman from Georgia, Republican Tom Price, called on Grayson to formally apologize, and filed a privileged resolution like the one filed by the gentleman from Maryland, Steney Hoyer, to reprimand the gentleman from South Carolina, Mr. Wilson, for yelling “You lie!” at the president during a joint session of Congress last month.
Rather than retracting his words, however, Grayson returned to the floor Wednesday to give his regrets, but not to Republicans. “I would like to apologize to the dead,” he said, referring to a study from the Harvard School of Public Health that estimated the mortality rate because of poor access to health insurance. “I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.”
Later, Grayson went to CNN to declare that he has “no intention of apologizing,” telling Wolf Blitzer, “I didn’t insult the president in front of 40 million people. What the Republicans have been doing is an insult to America.” He also said, “There are foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who think they can dictate policy to America by being stubborn.”
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Thursday that Republicans are holding Democrats to a higher standard than they hold members of their own party, referring to Rep. Joe Wilson’s refusal to apologize for shouting at the president. “There’s no more reason for Mr. Grayson to apologize than for…” Pelosi said. “In other words, if anyone is going to apologize, everyone should apologize.”
Republican leaders did ask Wilson to apologize after his outburst, but he refused.
She continued, “I again want everyone on all sides to take the level of debate to a plane that is worthy of the subject that we have at hand.”
And with that, the gentle lady from California went on with the press conference.
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