Healthcare protesters crowd House gallery

The visitors gallery in the House chamber remained packed on Saturday evening as lawmakers on both sides of the healthcare debate pleaded their case on the floor below.

Throughout the afternoon debate, observers provoked the presiding officer’s gavel rap for reflecting the emotion on display during debate.

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Many visitors had participated in a rally against the healthcare bill earlier Saturday afternoon, called at the last minute by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

On at least seven occasions, the lawmaker serving as speaker pro tem called for order due to applause from the rafters.

Cheering, booing or outbursts in the venerable chamber are not allowed, nor is pandering to those viewing from above, according to House Rules.

And ardent oppponents of the health-reform legislation in the hall -- paying the second "House Call” on lawmakers in the run-up to the impending vote -- had to abide by those rules as well.

King seized on the energy generated from protesters who traveled to the Captiol on Thursday and held a mini-sequel on Saturday afternoon.

Though half as many people showed up at King’s rally, on the East front of the Capitol, the outrage and frustration was equally as intense.

Reps. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) and Steve King (R-Iowa) roll out H.R. 3962 during a rally against the healthcare bill. Photo by Greg Nash.Conservative rockstars Reps. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) joined a handful of colleagues to address the crowd.

Chants of "Thank you Joe!" greeted Wilson at the rally. Wilson came to recent notoriety after yelling "You lie!" at President Barack Obama during a joint session of Congress earlier this year.

He riled up the crowd of between 400 and 500 people by calling the Blue Dogs “lap dogs” for rolling over to vote with their leadership.

His fellow conservative lawmaker, Rep. Marcia Blackburn (R-Tenn.), led the throng in a rousing chorus of “Kill the bill!” -- a chant heard Thursday by the activists, a movement largely responsible for the hot August of townhall fervor.

“Welcome to our weekend at Nancy’s!” the petite, blond Blackburn cried to the hundreds of tea-party protesters.

“And we are here for one purpose and that purpose is to KILL THE BILL,” she shouted as the crowd joined in.

“Kill the bill! Kill the bill! Kill the bill!” the chant continued.

Demonstrators unfurled a copy of the nearly 2,000-page bill, the pages hooked together, from the east front lawn all the way up the House steps, until Capitol Police asked them to remove it.

With the exception of National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) chairman Pete Sessions (Texas) and Vice Chairman Greg Walden (Ore.), GOP leadership was noticeably absent from the event.

On Thursday, however, the top-ranked GOP leaders appeared with more than 100 of their colleagues to rev up thousands who came to the Captiol from all over the country.

At that rally, Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) decried the “Pelosi healthcare bill” as the “greatest threat to freedom” that he has seen in his 19 years of Congress.

(Photo by Greg Nash: Reps. Pete Hoekstra, R-Mich., and Steve King, R-Iowa, roll out H.R. 3962 during a rally agaisnt the healthcare bill Saturday.)