From POLITICAL HOTSHEET at CBS News Blogs (September 30, 2009):
Democratic Representative Alan Grayson of Florida, who has come under fire from Republicans for suggesting on the House floor Tuesday night that “Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick,” said in an interview with CBSNews.com Wednesday that the response to his comments has been “overwhelmingly positive.”
“People are calling us from all over the country to congratulate us for telling the truth,” he said. “People are happy to see a Democrat with guts.”
Asked if he expected Republicans to put forward a resolution of disapproval criticizing him for his comments, Grayson said he expected that it would happen, though he is “quite sure it won’t pass.” Rep. Tom Price of Georgia has drafted a resolution rapping Grayson for “a breach of decorum and degraded the integrity and proceedings of the House,” though he has not yet introduced it.
“A resolution like that doesn’t save one human being’s life,” Grayson said, arguing that it instead will give people reason to focus “yet again on the fact that the other side is incapable of even coming up with an alternative” to Democrats’ health care reform efforts.
In response to Republican calls for him to apologize for his initial comments, Grayson was defiant on the House floor Wednesday afternoon, offering an apology not to Republicans but “to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America,” a reference to Congress’ inability to pass a health care reform bill.
Grayson said in the interview Wednesday that “no one, other that these Republicans who are desperate to change the subject, has asked me to apologize.”
The freshman Orlando-area representative, who hails from a swing district and is reportedly being targeted by Republicans in the 2010 election, said he is not worried that his opponents will use the controversy against him.
“No one’s drumming me out of office. I beat a forth-term Republican incumbent [in 2008],” he said.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Grayson added. “I don’t even have an opponent yet.”
From WAR ROOM at Salon (September 30, 2009):
House Republicans wanted Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., to apologize for saying the GOP healthcare reform plan is “don’t get sick,” and if you do get sick, “die quickly.” And Grayson did head back to the House floor on Wednesday to discuss his remarks — but the apology the congressman made is probably not what his Republican colleagues had in mind.
“I would like to apologize — I would like to apologize to the dead,” Grayson said, citing a recent study that showed almost 45,000 Americans die each year in part because of a lack of health insurance.
(Video at Salon link)
From the St. Petersburg Times:
“The biggest argument against Alan Grayson is Alan Grayson,” said Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, a Georgia Republican who has been helping vet potential challengers.
Already Grayson is one of the most targeted incumbents in the country, having defeated four-term Republican Ric Keller, and his re-election bid embodies the challenge Democrats face in holding control of Congress as the president’s approval rating falls.
But a leading opponent has not yet emerged, and Grayson, the 12th-wealthiest member of Congress, has resources to defend himself. He spent $2 million of his own money on the 2008 campaign. (The “die quickly” speech has triggered $150,000 in contributions, his office says.) And his district has shifted from slightly Republican to slightly Democratic.
“It’s no coincidence the National Republican Congressional Committee has named me as the No. 1 target next year,” Grayson said. “We’re working hard, getting things done.”
Swagger courses through Grayson’s every word, delivered in the accent of his Bronx upbringing and with the exacting nature of a lawyer who first made his name taking on — and taking down — contractors and war profiteers in Iraq.
“I don’t need the job for income or satisfaction,” said Grayson, sitting on a bench outside the House chamber in between votes. “The truth is, it’s really a hardship. I took an enormous pay cut to take the job. Every week, I leave five young children and my wife to come up here.
“I don’t owe anything to anyone here. I don’t owe anything to lobbyists. I don’t owe anything to leadership. The only thing I owe to anybody is the well-being of 800,000 people who depend on me.”
[His] self-assurance is best captured on the Financial Services Committee, where he has aggressively interrogated Federal Reserve officials and financial executives on federal bailouts and the economic morass.
In a memorable exchange, Grayson laughs at Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke as he tries to explain why the government would loan $500 billion to foreign banks.
The performances have made Grayson an Internet sensation, a champion for a public buried under credit card debt and foreclosures.
Working full time as a lawyer until joining Congress, Grayson made a name filing whistleblower lawsuits on contractor fraud and war profiteering in Iraq. The cases, involving big names like Halliburton and Custer Battles, were met with resistance from the Bush administration. Grayson said he was subjected to gag orders and stalling tactics. His quest garnered national attention, including a profile in the Wall Street Journal, which said he was waging a “one-man crusade,” and an extensive piece in Vanity Fair, where Grayson disclosed he liked to dress flamboyantly to hold a jury’s attention.
The experience, Grayson said, stirred his interest in politics and his antiwar stand played prominently in two runs for Congress, including an unsuccessful bid in 2006.
“Nobody can say you volunteered to be disabled the rest of your life. Nobody can say you volunteered to die and leave behind your wife and children. It’s wrong. It’s colonialism,” he said, starting to cry. Recently he was one of only a handful of Democrats, and the only from Florida, to vote against further funding of the war.
It was Grayson who recently discovered that taxpayers have been paying legal bills for three former Fannie Mae executives accused of manipulating the books. “When did Uncle Sam become Uncle Sap?” Grayson mused to the New York Times.
But Grayson seems to constantly detract attention from any successes he may have. He is a political operative’s dream, offering a stream of outlandish statements.
During an August fundraiser he said that former Vice President Dick Cheney liked to “shoot old men in the face.” At a blogger convention that same month he said Keller’s campaign staff “spent all their time flying paper clips at each other and watching porn on their computers.” Rush Limbaugh? “A has-been hypocrite loser.”