Tea Party protesters target lawmaker who agrees with them

McClatchy NewspapersMarch 19, 2010 

WASHINGTON — People with ties to Glenn Beck's 9-12 Project, Tea Party Boise and other conservative causes plan a protest outside Rep. Walt Minnick's office this weekend, with the claim that the Idaho Democrat co-sponsored one of the health care bills that Congress is considering.

Their assertion is untrue, however; Minnick never sponsored such legislation.

Minnick, who was one of 39 Democrats in the House of Representatives to vote against health care legislation in November, also has said repeatedly over the past week that he won't support the revised bill Sunday when it comes up for a vote in the House.

The Republican National Committee, which suggested Thursday that McClatchy look into the story, admitted that its research was inaccurate.

"We are completely wrong, and I apologize," RNC spokesman Jahan Wilcox said Friday.

The confusion stemmed from how the bill has moved through Congress. In October, Minnick and a bipartisan group of 39 other House members sponsored legislation unrelated to health care: a bill that gave veterans a home-buying credit. The bill passed the House unanimously.

The Senate took the veterans legislation, gutted it of all its content and used the shell of the bill as its vehicle for health care, since all legislation that addresses taxing and revenue must originate in the House. The Senate changed the title of the bill to "The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act," inserted its version of health care restructuring and passed the legislation 60-29 on Christmas Eve. The Senate then sent it back to the House, with only the bill number remaining the same.

On the Thomas.gov Web site, which tracks all congressional action, the names of the 40 original co-sponsors of the unrelated House bill remained, however. That made it look as though Minnick, along with some of the most conservative Republicans in the House — Ginny Brown-Waite of Florida, Walter Jones of North Carolina and Todd Platts of Pennsylvania — was a co-sponsor of health care legislation.

"This is a very typical procedure that is used by the Senate all the time," said Katie Grant, a spokeswoman for House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md.

"Using a bill originally co-sponsored by Representative Minnick does not in any way mean that he co-sponsored or supported the new health care bill that took its place, and it's ridiculous to suggest otherwise. Anyone pushing this story line is deliberately misconstruing the facts."

Minnick said he was disappointed that people would knowingly misrepresent his position, even though it was clear that he and the others weren't co-sponsors of health care legislation.

"They're using that as a way to misrepresent my position on a very important bill," he said. "I resent it and I think it's unethical and I think it's deliberate."

The rumor took on a life of its own in Idaho's conservative circles this week, after Bill Turner of Nampa, Idaho, was looking at the legislation and started writing about it. Turner, a blogger and political activist who describes himself as an "angry American" and is active on right-wing, anti-government Web sites, sent an e-mail to the Idaho Republican Party. In it, he suggested that Minnick had sponsored health care legislation, and he sent a link to the bill's history on Thomas.gov.

Jonathan Parker, the Idaho GOP's executive director, is on Turner's e-mail list, and he was intrigued. He passed the information on to researchers at the Republican National Committee.

"I asked if there was any truth to this," Parker said. "I asked if they wouldn't mind looking into it."

Although the RNC and Parker now accept the explanation for why Minnick's name is listed as a co-sponsor on the health care bill, Turner does not.

While Turner has written a letter to The Idaho Statesman supportive of another candidate for Minnick's seat, Republican state Rep. Raul Labrador, Turner said that he had "no hidden agenda" in talking about Minnick and health care.

He said that Saturday's protest outside Minnick's office in Meridian, Idaho, would be a combination of people with multiple ties to groups such as Tea Party Boise and those who were active on the conservative Web site AnyStreet.org.

It also will include people connected to the 9-12 Project Idaho, an offshoot of the national movement started by Beck, a Fox News commentator. They are "a bunch of angry citizens," Turner said, adding in an e-mail later that they intend on Saturday to be "militant."

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