House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is warning that some of his Democratic colleagues are being threatened with violence when they go back to their districts — and he wants Republicans to stand up and condemn the threats.
The Maryland Democrat said more than 10 House Democrats have reported incidents of threats or other forms of harassment about their support of the highly divisive health insurance overhaul vote. Hoyer emphasized that he didn’t have a specific number of threats and that was just an estimate.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Capitol Police and sergeant at arms briefed Democrats behind closed doors today about the incidents of violence — the most high profile of which have been toward Democratic Reps. Thomas Perriello of Virginia, Steve Driehaus of Ohio and Louise Slaughter of New York.
Hoyer hinted that Republicans should do more to condemn these threats of violence.
“I would hope that we would join together jointly and make it very clear that none of us condone this kind of activity,” Hoyer told reporters. “And when we see it, we speak out strongly in opposition to it. And I would hope that we would do that going forward.”
Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the majority whip, said Democrats and Republicans should continue to speak out on these threats. “Silence gives consent,” Clyburn said.
But Minority Leader John Boehner already has condemned threats of violence — and sought to explain why people are so angry.
“I know many Americans are angry over this health care bill, and that Washington Democrats just aren’t listening,” Boehner said. “But, as I’ve said, violence and threats are unacceptable. That’s not the American way. We need to take that anger and channel it into positive change. Call your congressman, go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign, make your voice heard — but let's do it the right way."
A Republican aide also pointed out that over the years Republican members of Congress received their fair share of death threats during volatile times. Newt Gingrich after the 1994 Republican revolution and the late Henry Hyde during the Clinton impeachment in 1998 both received numerous death threats. And just last month, Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.) received death threats after his filibuster of unemployment benefits, according to a report in Roll Call.
Hoyer said steps are being taken to protect members of Congress. Most lawmakers do not have formal security protection, but if any member feels threatened, they will be getting “attention from the proper authorities.”
On Wednesday, the FBI began a preliminary investigation into fuel lines cut at the Virginia home of Perriello’s brother, whose address was posted online — the poster thought it was the lawmaker’s address.
Driehaus said his address was posted Wednesday on a right-leaning blog.
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