WASHINGTON BUREAU — A senior Republican is calling for a House committee to hold hearings on the threats of violence aimed at some Democrats who voted for the health bills.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., made the request in a letter to Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Issa is the highest ranking Republican on the committee.
“I believe we must engage in a fact-based evaluation of these reports and examine them in the context of other threats, whether foreign and domestic,” Issa writes in the letter.
Issa says he is “deeply disturbed” about the threats and acts of actual violence. Some members of Congress have reported finding bricks thrown through district office windows. Lawmakers also have received threats against themselves and their families, and anti-Semitic notes. The district office of Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., received a note signed with a swastika.
Members of the public who feel betrayed by the votes on the health bills “must register those feelings at the ballot box and not on the streets,” Issa writes.
But, taking his cue from the House Democratic leadership, Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., committee chairman, was noncommittal.
Towns has stated that the threats against members of Congress and Alan Frumin, the Senate parliamentarian, “raise real and unprecedented concern for our democracy, and potentially, our national security,” says Jenny Thalheimer Rosenberg, a House Oversight Committee spokesman.
Towns will look into possible action the committee may take but “strongly believes” that law enforcement agencies must first investigate the threats and take appropriate action, Rosenberg says.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., earlier said she does not believe the threats and acts of vandalism sprang from her colleagues’ words.
But “I believe that words have power,” Pelosi said. “They weigh a ton.”
Words “are received differently by people depending on their, shall we say, emotional state, and we have to take responsibility for words that are said that we do not reject,” Pelosi said.
Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, House minority leader, criticized the threats and violence at a press conference.
Boehner declined to take responsibility for the incidents.
“Listen, there have been a lot of words said in this political debate and many political debates in this institution over the last 220 years, but the fact is that this bill in my view is really going to harm our country,” Boehner said.