As Rachel points out while Rep. Alan Grayson's remarks about Republicans wanting Americans to die quickly if they get sick were over the top, if you'r
October 1, 2009

As Rachel points out while Rep. Alan Grayson's remarks about Republicans wanting Americans to die quickly if they get sick were over the top, if you're going to consider that a breach of decorum, then there is a breach of decorum every week by the Republicans on the House floor. Rep. Grayson joined Rachel to discuss his remarks.

MADDOW: But we begin with Republicans saying they are shocked—shocked—by what freshman Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida said about them on the floor of the House last night.


REP. ALAN GRAYSON (D), FLORIDA: It‘s my duty and pride tonight to be able to announce exactly what the Republicans plan to do for health care in America. It‘s this. Very simply, it‘s a very simple plan.

Here it is. The Republicans‘ health care plan for America: Don‘t get sick. That‘s right, don‘t get sick. If you have insurance, don‘t get sick. If you don‘t have insurance, don‘t get sick. If you‘re sick, don‘t get sick—just don‘t get sick.

That‘s what Republicans have in mind for you, America. That‘s the Republican‘s health care plan.

But I think that the Republicans understand that that plan isn‘t always going to work, it‘s not a foolproof plan. So, the Republicans have a backup plan, in case you do get sick.

If you get sick in America, this is what the Republicans want you to do. If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly. That‘s right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick.

Now, the Democrats have a different plan. The Democrats say that if you have health insurance, we‘re going to make it better. If you don‘t have health insurance, we‘re going to provide it to you. If you can‘t afford health insurance, then we‘ll help you to afford health insurance.

So, America gets to decide. Do you want the Democratic plan or do you want the Republican plan? Remember, the Republican plan: Don‘t get sick. And if you do get sick, die quickly.


MADDOW: The Republican demands for an apology from Congressman Grayson commence immediately. They were led by Congressman Tom Price of Georgia, who drafted a resolution condemning Congressman Grayson‘s speech and then he condemned the speech itself on the House floor this afternoon.


REP. TOM PRICE ®, GEORGIA: And I have a privileged resolution that I‘m not going to introduce today that calls on the House to recognize that that kind of behavior is disapproved of by the House of Representatives. But in an effort to try to give the representatives from California—from Florida, Mr. Grayson, an opportunity to recognize that his comments were, in fact, a breach of decorum, we respectfully request that he apologize to our leader.


MADDOW: No word on whether Congressman Price got an apology from his colleagues who were talking the whole time he was talking while sitting right behind him.

But here‘s what Congressman Grayson did with the chance that was offered him.


GRAYSON: Several Republicans asked me to apologize. Well, I would like to apologize. I would like to apologize to the dead. And here why‘s. According to this study, “Health Insurance and Mortality in U.S. Adults,” which was published two weeks ago, 44,789 Americans die every year because they have no health insurance. I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven‘t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.


MADDOW: Holocaust? Always a bad choice of words unless you‘re talking about the actual Holocaust—at least in my opinion. And, of course, that was clearly not an apology.

Now, were Congressman Grayson‘s comments over the top? Absolutely. Were they fair and accurate? Absolutely not. They were hyperbolic, over-the-top charge. Congressman Grayson admitting that today when he said his remarks were meant to be tongue in cheek.

But were Mr. Grayson‘s comments a breach of decorum in the House of Representatives? (INAUDIBLE) that they were.

Yes, a breach of decorum in the United States House of Representatives for the time being anyway is something like screaming at the president in the middle of an address to a joint session of Congress. That is still considered to be a breach of decorum.

But to say it‘s a breach of decorum to make an inflammatory floor speech, to say that the opposing party is going to cause the death of Americans—that‘s not a breach of decorum in the House of Representatives today. That‘s an average Tuesday in the House of Representatives. You don‘t have to agree with Congressman Grayson or with the exact words he used last night, or with the signs that he used to illustrate his point. In order to agree that what he said on the House floor was absolutely no departure from what his colleagues on the Republican side of the aisle have been doing and saying all year long.

Does that sound extreme? Do you not believe me? Listen.


REP. GINNY BROWN-WAITE ®, FLORIDA (July 21): Last week, Democrats released a health care bill which essentially said to America‘s seniors:

Drop dead.

REP. STEVE KING ®, IOWA (July 15): They‘re going to save money by rationing care, getting you in a long line. Places like Canada, United Kingdom and Europe, people die when they‘re line.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT ®, TEXAS (July 15): One in five people have to die because they went to socialized medicine.

REP. PAUL BROWN ®, GEORGIA (July 10): This program of government option is being touted as being this panacea, the savior of allowing people to have quality health care, at an affordable price is going to kill people.

REP. VIRGINIA FOXX ®, NORTH CAROLINA: Republicans have a better solution that won‘t put the government in charge of people‘s health care and is pro-life because it will not put seniors in a position of being put to death by their government.

BROWN: A lot of people are going to die.

GOHMERT: I would hate to think that among five women, one of them is going to die because we go to socialized care.

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN ®, MINNESOTA (July 27): The president‘s advisor, Dr. Emanuel, says medical care should be reserved for the non-disabled. So watch out if you‘re disabled.


MADDOW: OK. Now let‘s talk about political rhetoric that‘s worth apologizing for. Could Congressman Alan Grayson‘s allegation yesterday that the Republican health care plan is for sick people to die quickly—could that speech reasonably have been part of that inflammatory montage of comments from the floor of the House that we just displayed? Absolutely, it could be part of that. And was it a departure from the civility that you would hope to see in political debate in Congress? Absolutely.

But Republicans calling for an apology, just from Congressman Grayson, while they think stuff like this is fine?


BROWN-WAITE: Last week, Democrats released a health care bill which essentially said to America‘s seniors: Drop dead.


MADDOW: You can talk me into the idea that die quickly is a mean thing to say in Congress. But you couldn‘t talk me into that if “drop dead” is considered to be OK.

Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida.

Congressman Grayson, thank you very much for coming on the show tonight to talk to us about this.

GRAYSON: It‘s my pleasure, Rachel.

MADDOW: You are the most talked about man in Washington today. And so, let‘s take this chance of talking to you to clear some of this up. Did you mean it literally when you said the Republican plan is for sick people to die quickly?

GRAYSON: It was tongue in cheek, Rachel. But I will tell you this—

the Republicans have no plan. I‘d love to see a choice between two or

three or five or seven plans to reform health care in America. There‘s

only one because the Republicans simply won‘t offer one. They‘re not

helping Americans to avoid outrageous health care premiums, no coverage

when they need it, and they‘re not helping Americans -- 47 million of them

who have no coverage at all. They got nothing.

MADDOW: When you said today that you wouldn‘t apologize to Republicans, you said you did apologize to the 45,000 people who are said to die every year, because they don‘t have health insurance. Now, I want to ask you about your choice of words because I just criticized it. You said, “I apologize to the dead and their families because we haven‘t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.”

Was the word “holocaust” there a reference to World War II? Were you making a Third Reich reference?

GRAYSON: Rachel, I was simply saying how disappointed I am that we can‘t get people to work together in Congress to solve this fundamental problem. We‘re talking about 44,000 people dying every year in America for lack of health insurance. My goodness! What are we in Congress for if we‘re not in Congress to solve that kind of problem? We have to stop the bickering and we have to move ahead.

MADDOW: Policy issues and process issues on the one hand are

absolutely the substance of how we got into this. But the character of

your comments about it is the reason that everybody‘s decided to make you

the issue rather than health care the issue today. So I just have to press

you and ask you, again: Do you regret using the word “holocaust”? Was it a

reference to World War II or was it a—did you mean it in a generic


GRAYSON: I don‘t see it that way, Rachel. I think we‘ve put health care back on the calendar and we‘re going to get it moving. That‘s the purpose of my remarks. It‘s stalled. Nothing‘s happening, and meanwhile, 4,000 Americans die every month, over 100 of them died every single day while we were debating this and debating and debating it.

We have to do this. We have to solve that problem and all the other problems. That‘s what we‘re here for.

MADDOW: I have to choice a third time and I‘m sorry. But I didn‘t mean to this, but do you regret using the word “holocaust” or do you think it was appropriate?

GRAYSON: Rachel.


GRAYSON: . it may not have been the best choice of words.


GRAYSON: But I will say this—my words don‘t matter, that‘s not what‘s important here. What‘s important is that we do what we need to do, that we solve these problems, and that‘s what I came here to do. That‘s what‘s so frustrating to me.

I‘ve been here for only nine months now, and I see the Republicans have nothing. They simply stick their heels in. They dig their heels in. They won‘t let anything get done, time and time again. It‘s not just the health bill, it‘s everything. They simply block everything. That‘s not what America sent Congress to do.

MADDOW: What do you think the best way is for Democrats in Congress to fight Republicans? You‘ve obviously taken a very pugnacious rhetorical stand against them and you‘ve been very outspoken and very blunt in the way you campaign. It‘s the way that you have governed as a member of Congress in your first term. Do you think that the Democratic Party should be approaching Republicans differently just as a matter of strategy?

GRAYSON: People want a Democrat with guts. They want to see a Democratic Party with guts. They want to see us use the power that they gave us last November in the last election. They want to see us solve their problems.

And not just Democrat, it‘s not just Democrats who feel that way. People want to see Congress act, not drag their feet, not be stopped by the Republicans, not be suckered by these nattering nay bobs of negativism. They want to see us solve their problems or at least work on them.

And that‘s what this plan does. That‘s why it‘s so frustrating to see a lack of progress when we have 122 more Americans dying every day.

MADDOW: Do you think that there is a cost in terms of the likelihood of getting something worthwhile passed for health care? In terms of the overall effectiveness of the Congress, to see the sort of incredibly inflammatory rhetoric we have seen on both sides in health care. I mean, it‘s clear that Republicans are in a bind in asking you to apologize, because of their own history of inflammatory rhetoric on health care and other issues. Do you think, in general, that it should be—that it should be dialed back?

GRAYSON: Listen, Rachel, we‘re dealing with people on the other side who are utterly unscrupulous. These are foot-dragging, knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who know nothing but no. One way or another, we have to overcome it for the sake of the nation.

MADDOW: Congressman Grayson, let me ask you about one last substantive policy issue. Because we talked about you on this show in the last week, in relation to your efforts to get the Defund ACORN Act to apply to all other contractors who have filed fraudulent paperwork and the other things that the Defund ACORN Act accuses that group of doing. How is that effort going? How is it being received?

GRAYSON: I think it‘s been going well. We‘re going to have some decision points coming up, in particular the conference between the House and the Senate. But right now, the House has passed a bill that defunds contractors who commit fraud against the government. And I‘m happy to be part of that. I think we need to protect that. We need to make sure the final bill reads that way. It would change America.

MADDOW: Congressman Alan Grayson, Democrat of Florida, thanks for joining us tonight and being so clear about what brought you here.

GRAYSON: Thank you, Rachel.

MADDOW: We really appreciate it, sir.

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