Debate over health care repeal: five gauges of House civility

Wednesday’s vote to repeal health care reform provided a formidable test of whether lawmakers are adopting a more civil tone.

2. Fewer caustic insults

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    In this file photo, Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., center, points and says "You lie!" as President Barrack Obama addresses a Joint Session of Congress concerning health care on Sept. 9, 2009.
    Melina Mara/AP Photo/The Washington Post
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On an imprecise scale of 1 to 10 – with GOP Rep. Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” during a 2009 speech by Mr. Obama a 10 – the debate over repeal of health care ranks somewhere in the middle. Democrats took strong exception to GOP claims that health-care reform was a “government takeover.” Rep. Steve Cohen (D) of Tennessee compared it to the Nazi propaganda minister’s signature “big lie”: “Just like Goebbels: You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually people believe it,” he said on the floor on Tuesday – another 10.

But that was an exception. Most chose less-toxic ways to say, “You’re wrong.” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) of Florida disagreed with a GOP claim that Obama told the Democratic caucus that health-care reform would shrink the number of tests available to a patient: “That is simply not true. That never happened. He never said that. And at the end of the day, we need to make sure that we are entitled to our opinions but not to our own facts,” she said in Tuesday’s floor debate.

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