(Soundbite of music)
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News, I'm Renee Montagne.
LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
And I'm Linda Wertheimer.
We're days away from a final health care vote in the House and the White House a piece of good news. Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich said today he will support the measure.
Representative DENNIS KUCINICH (Democratic, Ohio): This is the not the bill I wanted to support, even as I continue efforts until the last minute to try to modify the bill. However, after careful discussions I've decided to cast a vote in favor of the legislation.
MONTAGNE: President Obama made a personal appeal for Kucinich's support during a visit earlier this week to his home state of Ohio. NPR's Don Gonyea was in Columbus, Ohio yesterday, where people on both sides expressed strong feelings. A pair of noisy health care rallies faced off outside the district office of Democratic Congresswoman Mary Jo Kilroy.
DON GONYEA: They lined a quarter mile stretch of busy road not far from the Ohio State University campus.
(Soundbite of car horns)
GONYEA: On one end, supporters of the health care bill; on the other, the opposition.
Unidentified People: No, no, Mary Jo. No, no, Mary Jo...
GONYEA: Congresswoman Kilroy is a freshman Democrat who won the slimmest of slim victories in this swing district in 2008. She's considers vulnerable in this year's midterm. She did vote yes on the House version of health care legislation back in November but 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 also wanted to send her a strong message yesterday.
Forty-two-year-old John Frye was standing with the opposition. His five-month-old daughter was sleeping in a sling across his chest.
Mr. JOHN FRYE: We just took the time to come out here today to try and stop this stuff from getting rammed down our throats when we really dont want it.
GONYEA: That's a phrase that you hear over and over from those against 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 that every single person I talked to yesterday who opposes the legislation was very aware that House speaker Nancy Pelosi had 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.
Again, John Frye...
Mr. FRYE: If they can pass it, pass it, straight up and down. But dont do this backdoor stuff. It's just crazy.
GONYEA: Nearby, 60-year-old Steve Krempasky(ph) says he's been unemployed for two years. He's a truck driver, but his wife works so he's got health insurance. He's 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 says he does miss the former president.
Mr. KREMPASKY: Right now it appears that the government, especially the president, is not listening to what the people have to say.
GONYEA: Meanwhile, over on the other side a somewhat smaller but still noisy crowd.
Unidentified People: Pass that bill. Pass that bill. Pass that bill.
GONYEA: Maggie Green is a music teacher and musician.
Ms. MAGGIE GREEN: I'm here because I believe health care is a right. I believe that people's lives are being destroyed by the system that's currently in place.
GONYEA: I asked her about the possibility that Speaker Pelosi was considering procedural maneuvers to get the bill passed without a stand-alone vote on it. Green said she hadn't heard about that. But, she said, its important to get the bill passed, period.
Ms. GREEN: Are you saying should they use some other method to get these ideas passed - these changes passed to the current system? Is that what youre saying? Absolutely.
GONYEA: For the first hour, a wide driveway into the parking lot of Kilroy's Columbus office served as buffer between the two opposing camps of protestors. Police on bicycles kept an eye on things. There was no trouble. But at some point, the divide was breeched with predictable results.
Unidentified Man #1: Who's on Medicare over here? How many of you guys are on Medicaid and Medicare? Do you know how far in debt those programs are?
(Soundbite of shouting)
Unidentified Man #2: Medicare is bankrupt.
Unidentified Man #1: You dont what...
Unidentified Man #2: Everything the government does is bankrupt.
GONYEA: Congresswoman 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.
Unidentified Man #2: Are you crazy? Youre crazy.
GONYEA: Don Gonyea, NPR News, Columbus.