A top House Republican on Thursday accused Democrats of using recent violence and threats of violence for political gain over GOP lawmakers.
“Any suggestion that a leader in this body would incite threats or acts against other members is akin to saying that I would endanger myself, my wife or my children,” said House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican.
Democrats said Republicans haven’t done enough to stop violence and threats stemming from this week’s vote on the controversial health care overhaul bill. At least 10 Democratic lawmakers who supported the bill have reported receiving threats. A relative of a Virginia Democratic congressman found his gas line cut, and a brick was thrown through the window of the district office of a New York Democrat.
Mr. Cantor, as well as House Minority Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said Thursday that they don’t approve of the violence. Mr. Cantor said releasing such threats, including recordings of voice mails, to the press only encourages more violence and acts of intimidation.
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Mr. Cantor said he has received threats because of his elected office and his Judiasm but did not publicize the harassment because he felt it only encouraged new acts. He said a bullet was shot through his campaign office in Richmond this week.
Mr. Cantor specifically accused Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Maryland Democrat, who chairs the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine of “fanning the flames by suggesting that these incidents be used as a political weapon.”
“It is reckless to use these incidents as media vehicles for political gain,” he said.
But Mr. Kaine said Wednesday that he’s concerned about lawmakers’ safety.
“It is time for Republicans to do more than express concern about the actions of their supporters,” Mr. Kaine, a former Virginia governor, said.
House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, said such incidents have been reported to law enforcement officials. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, California Democrat, said she didn’t want to be “distracted” by the violent acts, but added they have “no place in a civil debate.”
Over the weekend, as the House was preparing to vote on the health bill, protesters reportedly spat on a black lawmaker and shouted a racial epithet at another.
Republicans didn’t do enough to calm the protesters, Democrats said, and were spotted on a House balcony encouraging protesters who were shouting slogans such as “Kill the bill.”
“I would hope that we would join together jointly in making it very clear that none of us condone this kind of activity,” Mr. Hoyer said on MSNBC on Wednesday. “And when we see it, that we speak out strongly in opposition to it, and I would hope we would do that going forward.”
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