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Mar 25, 2010 5:54 PM by Letitia Walker

Threats Continue Following Health Care Vote

WASHINGTON (AP) - A fax bearing the image of a noose. Profane

voice mails. Bricks thrown, a gas line cut. White powder sent to an

office.

Democrats and a few Republicans revealed mounting numbers and

unsettling details of threats against them Thursday in the

emotional aftermath of the passage of the health care overhaul.

Lawmakers uniformly condemned the harassment, but that's where

the agreement ended. Democrats said Republicans were slow to

condemn the vigilantism, while Republicans said Democrats were

playing politics with the threats.

"By ratcheting up the rhetoric, some will only inflame these

situations to dangerous levels," said House Republican Whip Eric

Cantor of Virginia. "Enough is enough. It has to stop."

At least 10 Democrats now have reported harassment, including

incidents involving at least four of their offices in New York,

Arizona and Kansas. More frequent have been obscenity-laced,

sometime-threatening phone messages. An undisclosed number of

lawmakers have been given increased police protection.

"It is unfortunate that a small but vocal group of people are

using insults to convey their opinions and alarming that anyone

would make threats against me or my family," said Rep. Kathy

Dahlkemper, D-Pa.

On Thursday, two Republicans said they, too, had been menaced.

No arrests have been reported. A threat to assault a member of

Congress in retaliation for the performance of official duties is

punishable by up to a year in prison.

House historian Fred Beuttler said there have been few acts of

violence against lawmakers over legislation. The worst occurred in

1954 when four Puerto Rican nationalists shot up the House chamber,

wounding five members. A cross was burned on Speaker Sam Rayburn's

front lawn in Texas during debate on civil rights legislation in

the 1960s.

This week, hate-filled rants have been showing up in voice

mails, e-mail boxes and on fax machines of lawmakers since the

House approved the health care bill 219-212 Sunday night. President

Barack Obama signed it into law on Tuesday. A package of fixes to

the new law was winding through Congress Thursday on the brink of a

two-week recess that begins on Monday.

On one point Thursday, there was bipartisan agreement: No act of

Congress - health care reform or anything else - merits threats of

violence against lawmakers or their families.

House Republican leader John Boehner met with Speaker Nancy

Pelosi about the incidents and both condemned them.

Pelosi was careful to avoid blaming Republicans directly for

inciting the harassment, though she said that words "weigh a

ton." Such threats of retaliation "have no place in a civil

debate in our country," she said.

Boehner followed moments later. While many are angry over the

health care measure, he said, "threats and violence should not be

part of a political debate."

The fact that lawmakers were being harassed took attention away

from the package of fixes to the health care law.

Rep. Jean Schmidt, R-Ohio, released a recording of a voicemail

she said she received in which a man repeatedly accuses Republicans

of being racists.

Cantor, meanwhile, said he has received e-mail threats and that

a bullet struck the window of his campaign office building in

Richmond. But Richmond police said the bullet apparently had been

randomly fired skyward. It hit the front window of a building that

houses Cantor's campaign office as it fell at a sharp downward

angle around 1 a.m. Tuesday, police said.

Cantor said the House's Democratic campaign chairman, Chris Van

Hollen, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine had

incited retribution against Republicans by telling The Huffington

Post that the GOP would "own" responsibility for retaliatory

slurs.

Schmidt, meanwhile, released a tape of a profanity-laced phone

message in which the caller said Republicans were racists and,

referring to an accident two years ago when she was hit by a car

while jogging, said, "You should have broke your back."

Rep. Anthony Weiner's office in the Queens borough of New York

City received a letter with white powder in it Thursday that

mentioned his vote for the health care bill, the police department

said. Police later said field tests showed the powder was not

hazardous.

In addition to Dahlkemper, Ohio Rep. John Boccieri, one of eight

Democrats who switched to "yes" on the most recent House vote,

said he had received threats.

E-mails sent to Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, D-Fla., another member who

switched her vote, urged her to commit suicide and said she and her

family should rot in hell."

Rep. Louise Slaughter, a New York Democrat and chairwoman of an

influential House committee, said someone had left her a voicemail

that used the word "snipers."

Some of the anger spilled over in a flood of threat-filled phone

and fax messages to the office of Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich. Stupak

had pledged to oppose the health care package unless given greater

assurance that it would not allow federal funding of elective

abortions. He voted in favor after the administration agreed.

"I hope you bleed ... (get) cancer and die," one caller told

the congressman between curses.

A fax carried a picture of a gallows with "Bart (SS) Stupak"

on it and a noose. It was captioned, "All Baby Killers come to

unseemly ends Either by the hand of man or by the hand of God."

And in Virginia, someone cut a propane line leading to a grill

at the Charlottesville home of Rep. Tom Perriello's brother after

the address was posted online by activists angry about the health

care overhaul. Perriello also said a threatening letter was sent to

his brother's house.

Senate Sergeant at Arms Terry Gainer told The Associated Press

Thursday that there was "no evidence that annoying, harassing or

threatening telephone calls or e-mails are coordinated."

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