Local residents travel to Washington to join protest against health care bill
RON GOWER/TIMES NEWS Vince and Mary Lou Gilotti of Franklin Township wear patriotic colors while attending rally in front of the Capitol in Washington D.C., Thursday. An estimated 10,000 people protested against a proposed health care reform package.
A hurry-up protest was staged yesterday in front of the nation's Capitol Building in Washington D.C. against a proposed national health care bill.
The Washington Times newspaper estimated the crowd at more than 10,000 people. Among them were two busloads of 78 area residents, most of them members of the Lehighton 912 Project.
Speakers included about a dozen Republican congressmen, business owners, and two nationally-known actors, John Voight and John Ratzenberger. The latter played the role of "Cliff" on the TV sitcom Cheers and was the voice of "Hamm" the pig in the movie "Toy Story."
The center of the protest was a national health care bill which the speakers termed, "The Pelosi Bill" because of the strong support for it by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. A vote on the bill is expected in Congress on Saturday. Pelosi is quoted in the national media as stating she feels she has enough votes to get the bill passed.
Republican speakers said both the House and Senate are controlled by the Democrats, which makes it difficult to stop passage despite their unity against it.
Three physicians who are Republicans and are congressmen railed against the bill.
GOP Whip Eric Cantor from Virginia told the partisan gathering, "I have reached out to every Republican member in the House and let me assure you, your efforts to stop this bill are loud and clear."
He added, "Not one Republican will vote on this bill. With your help, we are going to try to pick up as many common sense Democrats as we can."
Dr. Mike Bergess, a Congressman from Texas, said, "This bill, when it came through our committee July 31 at 10 o'clock at night, I voted 'no.'" He stressed to keep pressure on members of Congress through Saturday.
The speakers claimed the proposed bill is unaffordable and will damage the health care system.
Ratzenberger termed the present Democratic members of Congress as "Woodstock Democrats." He remarked, making reference to the proposed bill, "Socialism is a philosophy of failure."
Voight said passage of the present health care proposal "would make us no better off than the systems in Europe and Canada and New Zealand. Their rationing of health care causes many unnecessary deaths."
The rally was proposed by Rep. Michele Bachman of Minnesota. She suggested a week ago that Americans come to Washington on Thursday to protest health care reform.
The plea attracted protestors from virtually every state, including at least a dozen from California and some from Oregon.
Fred Grunder of Jasper, Texas, who is an anesthesiologist, said he talks regularly with people in all facets of the health care field. He said, "People in the health care business are going down the drain."
Among the local individuals who made the trip was Tonia Thompson of Tuscarora. She had also been in Washington for the massive 9/12 protest which was attended by an estimated one million people on September 12.
"This is an amazing turnout with only four days notice," she said of yesterday's turnout. "It's a work day, yet hardworking Americans took the day off to stand up for freedom and the Constitution."
Thompson added, "The elected voices are not listening to us. I got sick of them not listening to us and so did millions of Americans."
MaryEllen Salerno, president of the Lehighton 9/12 Project, said she was very pleased with the local turnout.
She added, "I'm happy with what I saw (in Washington). A lot of people like me are standing up to take our country back."
Vince Gilotti of Franklin Township commented that afterwards, he visited the Washington office of Congressman Christopher Carney. He said Carney wasn't in the office but his aide suggested he write a note to him.
Of the rally, Gilotti, who attended with his wife, Mary Lou, added, "It was awesome. The speakers were great." Both wore red, white and blue jackets and hats.
He said he was amazed by the fine behavior of the crowd. "Nobody was pushing or shoving," he said. "It was polite."
He added, "For such a short notice, they did a great job putting this together. I think everybody on this trip felt they were part of history coming down here."