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Local contingent protests health care bill

  • Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS Holding a sign opposing the health care reform bill proposed in Congress are members of the Lehighton 9/12 organization, from left, Dan Geissinger, Jean Andrews and Alan Andrews during a protest rally held yesterday in Washington D.C.
    Ron Gower/TIMES NEWS Holding a sign opposing the health care reform bill proposed in Congress are members of the Lehighton 9/12 organization, from left, Dan Geissinger, Jean Andrews and Alan Andrews during a protest rally held yesterday in Washington D.C.
Published March 17. 2010 05:00PM

With action likely this week on an $875 billion health care bill in Washington D.C., protesters yesterday - including several dozen local residents - took their pleas to a rally in a park near the Capitol, then directly to the halls of Congress.

A bus load of members of the Lehighton 9/12 project made the trip, which was coordinated by MaryEllen Salerno, founder of the Lehighton 9/12 project.

Salerno said, "President Obama, Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi, and their colleagues have chosen to ignore the will of the people and the public outcry against government-run health care."

A highlight of the event was when about 25 protesters, some of them from the local contingent, stood outside the office of Pelosi and sang "God Bless America."

Jean Andrews of Lehighton led the singing. Just as the song was ending, an office staffer from Pelosi's office slammed the door closed and a security guard came and ordered the group to leave the area.

Visits were made to the offices of many lawmakers, including Congressman Paul Kanjorski. But in every case, staffers said they were not available and out of the office.

Today, the Lehighton 9/12 Project plans to protest the health care bill at the Wilkes-Barre office of Kanjorski. The protest will be from 4-6 p.m., Salerno said.

It was hard to estimate the crowd that gathered in the D.C. park for the tea party, dubbed "Code Red Health Care Rally."

Speakers included Republican Congressional members Mike Pence of Indiana, Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Tom Price of Georgia, and Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.

One of the attendees at the rally was Mark Berg of Winchester, Va., who wore a white medical smock. Berg said he's a medical doctor who recently gave up his family practice because "I couldn't stand the way things are going."

Dr. Berg, a native of Hanover, Pa., said he came representing the "Docs for Patients" organization. But he also is a member of the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons.

Of the health care proposal, he said, "I've given talks, indexed it, read it twice, and there is nothing good about it."

Patrick Neil Fields of Philadelphia wore a colonist outfit while attending the rally.

"I'm an aficionado of the tea party movement," he said. "The health care proposal stinks like hell."

Fields said he feels Congress doesn't have the authority under the U.S. Constitution to pass such legislation.

Tea Party members, including Salerno, said they plan to continue pressuring members of Congress to oppose the health care bill.

"Democrats are completely out-of-touch with public opinion when it comes to health care," she said. "This is proof that we need to continue to pound hard with phone calls, faxes, and visits to our representatives. We need to keep the pressure on and not let up."

She added, "We must tell them, in no uncertain terms, that when we, the American people, said 'No' to ObamaCare, we meant it. They must know that we are on to the latest, underhanded scheme to pass ObamaCare against the wishes of the American people."

She was especially furious about a report in The Washington Post yesterday.

Under this concept, the Senate's version of health-care legislation would be deemed approved if House members adopt a set of changes to that bill. The Senate then would have to approve the changes, but the original bill could go directly to President Obama to be signed into law, the Post stated.

Pelosi has said the process would make it easier to secure the votes needed to push health-care changes across the legislative finish line. At a time when relations within Congress are frayed, it would enable House Democrats not to be on record directly as supporting the Senate measure, the newspaper reported.

Other groups participating in the rally besides the Lehighton 9/12 Organization included Tea Party Patriots, the American Heritage Foundation and Freedom Works. At every Congressperson's office visited by local folks yesterday, they were greeted by aides holding clipboards and urged to write their message to the respective lawmaker.

At the office of Kanjorski, only four individuals at a time were allowed inside the office. If a group of five approached, the fifth party had to wait outside the door until one of the admitted members left.

Still, the fact that they were permitted to give messages to the members of Congress pleased Peter Salerno of Lehighton.

He said, "I think they were listening more because we got to sign the petitions."

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