Undecided Democrats mostly avoid Tea Partiers though one activist calls staffers ‘excellent’

Alex Pappas Political Reporter
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Dave Walker wasn’t happy when he showed up to Rep. Jason Altmire’s office to plead with the Pennsylvania congressman over President Obama’s health-care bill.

The Democratic lawmaker’s office was a popular destination for the more than 1,000 Tea Partiers who stormed Capitol Hill Tuesday morning because Altmire, an original no-vote for the bill, is viewed as a potential vote switcher.

Walker — who showed up to the office after a 12-hour bus ride with fellow activists from Ocala, Fla. — became agitated when a nervous-yet-dutiful Altmire intern told him he didn’t know if the congressman was in the office and would take down Walker’s information instead.

Even though Democratic leadership sent out a memo yesterday instructing freshman and sophomore House Democrats to be hospitable to the activists — and serve coffee and snacks — Tea Partiers had a hard time getting face time with the actual no-vote Democrat members.

Karen Powers took vacation time off from work in Revenna, Ohio, to lobby Congress, stopping by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office first as a “symbolic move” before moving onto other offices.

“We had no expectations of seeing her,” Powers admitted after the receptionist in Pelosi’s office just had her fill out a visitor log.

Tea Party Patriots national coordinator Mark Meckler, standing outside the Canon House Office Building, said activists dead-set on meeting with no-vote members took the tunnels and cafeteria’s inside the hallways in search of the representatives.

Sign-waving activists opposed to the health-care bill convened upon the Capitol grounds starting early Tuesday morning, often breaking out into “kill the bill” chants. One sign-waver, standing outside of the Cannon office building and holding a banner that read “Obama, Pelosi & Reid: you shame America,” pointed his finger at a congressional staffer inside the building and then back at his sign. The staffer shook her head in disapproval at him.

John Coon, a 63-year-old Maryland man, stood on the Cannon building steps, handing out lists of targeted Democrats and maps to their offices. “I’m scared to death of this health-care bill,” he said. “I think it’s going to destroy this country.”

Coon said he planned to spend the day visiting conservative Blue Dog Democrats in other districts. He said that if those members don’t think he matters because he doesn’t live in their districts, he will make sure they know he matters when he’s working against the member’s election in November.

“These people who vote yes are going to be targeted to be bumped,” he said.

While some offices, like Altmire and Pelosi, merely had the visitors fill out visitor forms, others opened their doors to the activists, allowing them to meet with chiefs of staff and other congressional staff over the legislation.

“They have been excellent,” said Mary Clark of Florida after visiting with staffers from five Democratic offices. “We had really good conversations.”

Clark said her trip to Capitol Hill wasn’t just about protesting.

“We’re going to go by Stupak’s office and say, ‘Thank you,” she said, referencing the Michigan Democratic congressman who has refused to support the legislation because of abortion language in it.