By Tina Irgang and Sharmina Manandhar
WASHINGTON – House Republicans, including Maryland Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, R-Frederick, rallied against the House health care reform bill Thursday, speaking to a large crowd of supporters chanting “Kill the bill” and “U-S-A, U-S-A.”
The House is expected to vote on the bill this weekend. According to a Congressional Budget Office analysis, it will cover 36 million people without insurance by 2019.
The Democrats’ proposal would “lower costs for American families and small businesses and ensure that millions more have access to affordable, quality health care,” said Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Kensington, in a news release following the bill’s unveiling Oct. 29.
An alternative bill, proposed by the House GOP last week, will cover 3 million, the CBO said.
At the rally, Bartlett said the Democrats’ bill contains the word “shall” 3,400 times.
“Now, in the common vernacular, shall means must,” Bartlett said. “And one of the things you must do if this bill passes is buy a health care policy approved by the federal government, and if you don’t, they are going to fine you.”
Other lawmakers addressing the crowd included Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., who called the protesters a “voice of persuasion.”
“Join us to stand for freedom and if it’s the last hour, we’ll have a meet-up for freedom and let our voices be heard,” Bachmann said.
Marylanders turned out for the rally and to visit the offices of their members of Congress and senators.
“I wouldn’t be anyplace else today. This is as good as 1776,” said Cheverly resident Ann Gardenhour. “This is my way of fighting another revolution.”
Referring to the government-run insurance option, Silver Spring resident Dan Redmond said: “I think it curbs our individual freedoms. The federal government has no place telling people how to do things.”
Jim Rutledge, a Forest Hill Republican who plans to challenge Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara Mikulski in 2010, came to the event to introduce himself and his campaign to potential supporters.
“We are not happy with the direction of this health care bill,” Rutledge said later. “We are letting Congress know that the people are rising up from New Jersey to Virginia, and Maryland’s right in the middle.”
Marylanders travelled to the event individually, in carpools and by bus, including Pikesville resident Ruth Goetz.
“I want freedom of choice, and I want to have my freedom for my medical care,” said Goetz, a member of the anti-illegal immigrant advocacy group Help Save Maryland. “I don’t want the government paying for abortions or illegal aliens.”
Another Maryland resident likened the plan to socialized medicine.
“I believe that the socialistic health care plan that Obama and Congress have in store for us just really does not work,” said Michael Bertocchi, vice chairman of the Maryland chapter of the Constitution Party. “It’s been tried in other countries and what we’ve seen is that people have to wait really a long time for services, whether it’s basic services or even for emergency services.”
Bartlett later met with his constituents, who arrived in seven buses, he said.
“I was pleased that so many people came,” Bartlett said. “It is nice to know that you are not alone.”
Several celebrities also spoke at the event, including actor Jon Voight, who starred in “National Treasure” and “Mission: Impossible.”
“I am so deeply proud to be among you brave, concerned American citizens,” Voight said.
Earlier this week, House Republicans opposing the public option proposed an amendment requiring all members of Congress to get health insurance through that option.
The American Medical Association and the AARP Thursday announced their support for the House Democrats’ bill.
President Obama praised the endorsements saying he was “extraordinarily pleased and grateful.”
“They’re endorsing this bill because they know it will strengthen Medicare, not jeopardize it,” Obama said about AARP. “They know it will protect the benefits our seniors receive, not cut them.”