Grayson Not Backing Down: "I Apologize To The Dead"
Alan Grayson refused to apologize Wednesday for saying on the House floor Tuesday night that the GOP health care plan amounts to "don't get sick" - and if you do, "die quickly."
"I'm not taking any of it back. I stand by what I said," Grayson, a freshman Democrat who represents Orlando, Florida, told reporters.
GOP Rep. Tom Price of Georgia filed a resolution Wednesday censuring Grayson for the comments. But Grayson said he planned to stay on offense.
"The point is that if you do get sick, you're going to have huge medical bills. Your insurance company's not going to help you and as a result of that you're going to end up having the plug pulled on you," he said. "I don't think that the Democrats have to be on the defensive for a bill that reduces health care costs, makes health care premiums affordable, makes people's health care coverage comprehensive in the sense that they can't be excluded for breaching lifetime caps or by preexisting conditions and helps all of the Americans who cannot afford health insurance today. I think we should be on the offense not the defense and that's where I plan to stay."
Grayson said he arrived at his conclusion after listening to Republicans talk on the House floor for months.
"One of the responsibilities we have when we're in the majority is from time to time to be the Speaker pro tem[pore]. And it's been my misfortune to have to listen to them attack our bill now for months and drag out our work on this bill endlessly, while according to Harvard scientists, 47,000 Americans die every year for lack of health insurance. And by the way, that's 20 or so since we started talking about it. That's over a hundred a day," Grayson said.
Grayson's floor speech was intended to be satirical, he said. Now that he's under fire, however, he's standing by it.
"Yes, it was tongue-in-cheek. I'm surprised I have to explain that, but that's the way it goes these days," he said.
Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) followed Grayson on the House floor Tuesday night and chided him for "making fun of a very important issue." Still, he pronounced himself unamused.
"I can't believe what I just saw. I can't believe it," said Burton on the floor. "First of all, it's totally wrong. And secondly, it's making fun of a very important issue for the American people. We do have health care problems in this country and we need to solve those health care problems, but coming down here and making light of the issue by coming up with a lot of silly talk is just ridiculous. The Republicans have a bill, H.R. 3400, which deals with the problem in a way that does not get the government in between the patient and their doctor."
Asked to clarify if he was being satirical or serious -- two concepts which are not, actually, mutually exclusive -- Grayson responded: "I meant what I said."
Will it hurt his reelection chances? "It improves them. People like elected officials with guts who'll say what they mean," he analyzed.
He also didn't think it could harm relations between the parties. "We're way past that point. They have said no to everything. They are nattering nabobs of negativity. They've been that way since I've been sworn in," he said, echoing Richard Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew.
Earlier in the day, Democratic caucus chair John Larson (Conn.) said he "would suggest" that Grayson apologize. But Grayson said he'd spoken to Larson, claiming Larson had not asked him to apologize and told him he wouldn't do so.
"I've spoken to other members of leadership and nobody has asked me to apologize. Nobody is going to ask me to apologize. As I said before, no rules of the House were broken. We have a - if you bother to look it up - there's something in the Constitution called the Speech and Debate Clause and I think it well covers this situation. So no, nobody is going to ask me to apologize among the Democrats. I think the Republicans have something to apologize for but I made clear exactly what that is last night," he said.
Grayson also took to the House floor to offer a different sort of apology - to those who have died for lack of health insurance. "I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't acted sooner to end this holocaust in America," he said.
There is "no comparison at all" between his situation and that of Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.), who was condemned for not apologizing for shouting "You lie!" at President Obama, Grayson said.
Wilson, asked about Grayson, finally did offer an apology. "I need to apologize," he said. "I don't know anything about it."
UPDATE: The Price resolution has yet to be introduced. No decision has been made by GOP leadership whether to go that route, a Republican Study Committee aide said.