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Protesters Focus On Rep. Kilroy As Health Vote Nears
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Protesters Focus On Rep. Kilroy As Health Vote Nears

Health Care

Protesters Focus On Rep. Kilroy As Health Vote Nears

Protesters Focus On Rep. Kilroy As Health Vote Nears
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Protesters at two opposing health care rallies in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday. i

Supporters and opponents of the health care legislation lined up Tuesday outside the district office of U.S. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy in Columbus, Ohio. Don Gonyea/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Don Gonyea/NPR
Protesters at two opposing health care rallies in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday.

Supporters and opponents of the health care legislation lined up Tuesday outside the district office of U.S. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy in Columbus, Ohio.

Don Gonyea/NPR

As Congress moves toward some sort of conclusion on health care, Republicans remain united in their opposition, while the White House and Democratic leaders are working to win over still undecided Democrats whose votes are critical to passage.

But not all of the action on the bill is taking place in Washington. On Tuesday, a pair of noisy noon-time health care rallies dueled for attention outside the district office of Democratic U.S. Rep. Mary Jo Kilroy in Columbus, Ohio.

Sending A Strong Message

They lined a quarter-mile stretch of busy road not far from the Ohio State University campus. On one end, there were supporters of the health care bill, and on the other end, the opposition.

Kilroy, a freshman Democrat who won the slimmest of slim victories in this swing district in 2008, is considered vulnerable in this year's midterm. She did vote yes on the House version of health care legislation in November. But she has not yet said what she'll do when the final vote comes up. Those on both sides said they expect her to support it, though both sides also wanted to send her a strong message Tuesday.

John Frye, 42, was standing with the opposition. His 5-month-old daughter was sleeping in a sling across his chest.

"We just took the time to come out here today to try to stop this stuff from getting rammed down our throats," he said. "We really don't want it."

That's a phrase heard over and over from those opposing the bill. Its repetition is a measure of how organized the opposition is in getting its talking points to the street level. More evidence of that is the fact that many of the people at the rally who opposed the legislation were very aware that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has floated the idea of using a procedural move to advance health care out of the House without a stand-alone vote on the Senate version of the bill.

"If they can pass it, pass it," he said. "Straight up and down. But don't do this back-door stuff. It's just crazy."

Nearby, 60-year-old Steve Krempasky said he has been unemployed for two years. He's a truck driver. But his wife works, so he has health insurance. He was wearing a shirt that mimics that iconic silk-screened image of Barack Obama from the campaign — except this shirt features George W. Bush and the phrase: "MISS ME YET?" Krempasky said he does miss the former president.

"Right now it appears that the government, especially the president, is not listening to what the people have to say," he said.

'Health Care Is A Right'

Meanwhile, on the other side, a somewhat smaller but still noisy crowd gathered.

"I'm here because I believe health care is a right," said Maggie Green, a music teacher and musician. "I believe that people's lives are being destroyed by the system that's currently in place."

When asked about the possibility that Pelosi is considering procedural maneuvers to get the bill passed without a standalone vote on it, Greene said she hadn't heard about that. But she said it's important to get the bill passed even if it means using other methods — period.

For the first hour, a wide driveway into the parking lot of Kilroy's Columbus office served as a buffer between the two opposing camps of protesters. Police on bicycles kept an eye on things. There was no trouble. But at some point the divide was breached, with predictable results — arguments ensued.

Kilroy was not in her district office — she was back in Washington — so she witnessed none of this. She issued a statement thanking each side and saying their views will be crucial in her decision-making process.

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