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At Capitol, Tea Party Groups Protest Health Care Bill

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At Capitol, Tea Party Groups Protest Health Care Bill

At Capitol, Tea Party Groups Protest Health Care Bill

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

While Democrats continue their efforts today to find consensus on health care, some conservatives gathered in a park outside the capitol to protest. Anti-tax groups from the tea party movement brought in demonstrators to attempt to block the process.

NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports on the vocal opposition.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Today, the Republican National Committee released a new radio ad featuring RNC chairman Michael Steele.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Mr. MICHAEL STEELE (Chairman, Republican National Committee): The Democrats are accusing us Republicans of trying to delay and stonewall their government takeover of health care. You know what? They're finally right.

SEABROOK: It shows that as supporters of the health care overhaul are working on the end game, so is the opposition.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Mr. STEELE: This is our last chance to stop them. Contact your senators. Make Washington listen to you.

SEABROOK: And the opposition is mobilizing.

Mr. DOUG BARKER: (Singing) Na, na, na, na, na, na, na, na, hey, hey, hey, goodbye.

SEABROOK: This is Doug Barker of Chester, Virginia. He stands in a park across the street from the U.S. Capitol holding up two papier-mache props.

Mr. BARKER: I have a pitchfork and a torch because I'm ready to throw these guys out of office, me and all these people right here.

SEABROOK: They're happy to tell you they're the right-wing mob, several hundred people gathered to listen to their favorite conservative lawmakers like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.

Representative MICHELE BACHMANN (Republican, Minnesota): You came before and you came again. I guess they must be deaf; they can't hear you.

(Soundbite of applause)

SEABROOK: And Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn.

Senator TOM COBURN (Republican, Oklahoma): The health care bill isn't about health care. The health care bill is about government control. The health care bill is about eliminating the liberty and freedom to choose what is best for you and your family.

SEABROOK: Now, down Pennsylvania Avenue, at the White House, there were demonstrators, too, a few dozen who came out to support the health care bill and protest the conservative Democrats they say are holding it up. But the protest at the Capitol was bigger and had more theater to it.

Mr. WILLIAM TEMPLE: You know, we fought the British over a three percent tea tax. We might as well bring the British back. I'll take the three percent tea tax any day now.

SEABROOK: This is not a British man but an American re-enactor dressed head to toe in Revolutionary costume.

Mr. TEMPLE: Well, I'm William Temple, and I'm from Brunswick, Georgia, from the colony down there, and we've been fighting the British and driving them out.

SEABROOK: Temple shakes his tricorne hat and points at the Capitol dome behind him.

Mr. TEMPLE: Well, it's 1776 all over again, and now, we got a House of Lords right up here. So, the 2010 elections are key for us. People are fed up. They've had enough of big government, and so you're seeing a sea change in this country like it hasn't been.

SEABROOK: So as the lawmakers inside the Capitol make a last push negotiating a bill, protesters outside are also making a last push: trying to shove the entire health care bill off a cliff.

(Soundbite of protest)

SEABROOK: Andrea Seabrook, NPR News, The Capitol.

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