Driehaus Accuses GOP Leaders of ‘Fanning the Flames’ of Angry Public

Posted March 24, 2010 at 1:19pm

Updated: 2:41 p.m.

Freshman Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio) is accusing House Minority Leader John Boehner (Ohio) and other Republican leaders of “fanning the flames” of angry protesters across the country and potentially endangering Members of Congress.

Driehaus, who said he has received death threats, confronted Boehner on the House floor Tuesday after Boehner was quoted in the National Review saying Driehaus “may be a dead man” politically if he voted for the health care reform bill.

“These words have meaning, and it’s not so much how I take their words, or how they might be intended by these so-called leaders, but it’s how the craziest person out there might see it as an invitation to engage in violent behavior against a Member of Congress,” Driehaus said Wednesday.

“I told Mr. Boehner my concerns, I told him that he’s a leader and he has responsibility and he should act like a leader. I haven’t seen any action on his behalf that would suggest to me that he’s taking responsibility for his words.”

Boehner, meanwhile, spoke out against violence and threats of violence Wednesday on Fox News.

“Well, there are a lot of angry Americans and they are angry over this health care bill,” Boehner said. “They’re angry about the fact that the Democrats here in Washington aren’t listening to them. But I’ve got to tell you that violence and threats are unacceptable. It is not the American way. Yes, I know there is anger, but let’s take that anger, and go out and register people to vote, go volunteer on a political campaign, and let’s do it the right way.”

Don Seymour, a spokesman for Boehner, said Tuesday that his boss “does not condone violence and his remark was obviously not meant to be taken literally.”

But Driehaus said that the language being used by Republicans in the health care debate, including Rep. Randy Neugebauer’s (Texas) yelling of “baby killer” Sunday night, was “inexcusable.”

“They continue to damage the institution,” he said.

“I think the Republican leaders should actually act like leaders. When people step over the line and go too far, they should say so. Instead they are fanning the flames and engaged in rhetoric that goes beyond the pale. When Members are getting death threats in their offices, when Members are getting threats on the lives of their children … leaders should step up and say, ‘Stop, this is inappropriate.'”