By Mike Soraghan - 09/30/09 08:16 PM EDT
Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) mocked Republican attempts to compare his “Die quickly” remarks to Rep. Joe Wilson’s (R-S.C.) “You lie!” outburst and said he would apologize only to the families of those who have died for lack of health insurance.
“I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America,” Grayson said on the House floor Wednesday afternoon.
Grayson said on the floor Tuesday night that “if you get sick, America, the Republican healthcare plan is this: Die quickly.” He even had a sign printed reading, “The Republican Healthcare Plan: Die Quickly.”
Republicans sought to compare those remarks to Wilson’s outburst during President Barack Obama’s address to a joint session of Congress and demanded Democrats respond in a similar manner.
But Grayson and his fellow party members disputed the comparison, saying his remarks were a lot like what GOP members have been saying about Obama’s health plan.
Wilson said Wednesday he hadn’t heard about Grayson’s remarks, and so hadn’t formed an opinion of them.
“I need to apologize — I know nothing about it,” Wilson said. Told a little more about Grayson’s presentation on the House floor Tuesday night, he said, “I know my situation was a ‘town hall moment.’ … That seems premeditated.”
Pressed by Republican leaders at the time, Wilson apologized privately to the White House. But House Democrats pushed through a “resolution of disapproval” when he wouldn’t apologize on the House floor.
Grayson said he’d gotten no such pressure from House leaders after his remarks. And before he returned to the floor to mock his critics, he’d told reporters he had no intention of apologizing.
“I didn’t violate the rules of the House. I didn’t do anything inappropriate,” Grayson told reporters Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t feel any pressure at all. I’m not taking any of it back.”
To highlight the comparison with Wilson, Rep. Tom Price (Ga.), chairman of the Republican Study Committee, announced on the floor that he’d drafted his own “resolution of disapproval,” against Grayson, and said he’d introduce it if Grayson doesn’t apologize.
“It’s that type of presentation that debases and denigrates our proceedings here in the House, and it does a disservice to all Americans,” Price said.
Grayson has been targeted by Republicans in next year’s election, but he said he doesn’t think the attention his remarks have brought will hurt him.
“People like politicians who have guts,” Grayson said.
Republican campaign officials, though, made it clear they plan to use the remarks against him.
“Alan Grayson not only refuses to apologize, he is doubling down on his despicable remarks and he is dragging his party with him,” said Ken Spain, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. “This is an individual who has established a pathological pattern of unstable behavior. Now, more than ever, Speaker Pelosi should end her silence and demand an apology.”
Though Grayson said no Democratic leaders had pressured him to apologize, House Democratic Caucus Chairman John Larson (Conn.) said Wednesday morning he would “encourage” Grayson to apologize.
Larson said Grayson’s remark wasn’t as serious as Wilson’s outburst, but still said he should apologize.
“It’s not the same magnitude, clearly, and didn’t deal with decorum, as it did in the case of Joe Wilson, but I would encourage Alan to apologize,” Larson told reporters. “And I would encourage members that, as we get into a very heated and emotional and visceral debate, that we keep in mind the rules of the House and the way we treat and respect one another.”
Grayson said he’d spoken to Larson, who did not urge him to apologize.
“He didn’t know what I’d said when he said that,” Grayson said. “He did not ask me to apologize. He wants to raise the level of discourse.”
Democrats were quick to point out that Republicans have been making inflammatory comments themselves in the healthcare debate. Aides circulated the quotes and Larson noted them in a short press conference.
Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite (R-Fla.) said in July that “Democrats released a healthcare bill which essentially said to America’s seniors: Drop dead.”
And Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said, “One in five people have to die because they went to socialized medicine! I would hate to think that among five women, one of ’em is gonna die because we go to socialized care.”
Asked if Grayson should be sanctioned if he doesn’t apologize, Larson said, “If that’s the case, we should have Ginny Brown-Waite, Tom Coburn and Louie Gohmert apologize for similar things that they said.”