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US Lawmakers Report Increased Threats Linked to Health Care Vote

  • Cindy Saine

Several Congressional Democrats say they are worried for their safety because of threats linked to the passage of controversial health care reform legislation this week. House of Representatives Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said Wednesday that officials from the FBI and Capitol Police have briefed lawmakers on how to handle security threats.

Maryland Democrat Steny Hoyer said that he and Republican congressional leaders have discussed implementing new security precautions for lawmakers after an increase in threats following Sunday's health care reform vote and accompanying anti-reform protests outside the Capitol over the weekend.

Hoyer said there have been at least four acts of vandalism against Democratic House members that are linked to their votes on health care.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating cut fuel lines at the Virginia home of Democratic Representative Tom Perriello's brother, whose address was posted online by a right-wing blogger who said it was the lawmaker's address.

Hoyer also said that at least 10 House members have received threats to themselves or their families and that the Capitol Police have been alerted.

"Any member [of Congress] who feels themselves at risk is getting attention from the proper authority," Hoyer said.

Tempers flared on Saturday and Sunday - both inside and outside of the Capitol - as lawmakers prepared to vote on the contentious health care reform legislation. Hundreds of protesters gathered to voice their opposition to the health care bill. Many were members of the Tea Party movement, which is made up of loosely organized groups of grass roots conservative, Libertarian and anti-tax activists who oppose the Democrats' health care plan, saying that it imposes too much government involvement in the economy and people's lives.

On Saturday, Democratic Representative Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri was spat on by an angry protester as he approached the Capitol. And openly gay Democratic Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts was the target of a homophobic slur.

Democratic Majority Whip James Clyburn says the jeering and anger from protesters reminded him of the abuse he was subjected to as an African-American civil rights protester in the 1960s.

"What I saw on Saturday especially, out in the streets, and what I heard was very reminiscent of that history," Clyburn said.

Clyburn urged Republican leaders to join Democrats in publicly condemning anyone who encourages threats, vandalism and violence, saying that "silence is consent."

Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio told Fox News that violence and threats are "unacceptable" and called on opponents of the new health care law to speak with their votes, and to get involved in politics.