Updated: 6:22 p.m.
Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) said Sunday that Republicans acted like “clowns” by egging on tea party protesters in the House gallery who were dragged out for shouting out against health care reform.
A protester “stood up and started yelling, kill the bill!’ and then the Republicans started cheering him on,” Frank vented to reporters after the incident. “You have dozens of Republicans standing and applauding and cheering on a guy who was disrupting the proceedings and resisting court officers. It’s really disgraceful.”
Although Frank referred to only a single protester, Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider later said two men were arrested in the incident. William Gunn and David Sanders, both from Massachusetts, were charged with disruption of Congress, Schneider said.
Rowdy tea party protesters have flooded the Capitol grounds in recent days to oppose health care reform; group organizers on Sunday were encouraging attendees at a rally to get gallery passes and bring their message directly to lawmakers.
Frank said he had never seen Members cheer on someone in the gallery for interrupting proceedings. “These clowns are out there encouraging a violation of the law. They’ve decided apparently that they benefit from virulence, hatred, disruption,” he said.
The Massachusetts Democrat also had harsh words for Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who earlier Sunday downplayed incidents where tea party protesters spit on and used racial slurs against black lawmakers, in addition to using a homophobic slur against Frank.
“Any movement in which Steve King and Michele Bachmann are among the leaders is probably not going to meet high standards for civility or coherence,” Frank said. He added that he was “appalled” that King didn’t take the incidents more seriously.