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Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stood up during a Capitol Hill press conference Thursday to display a prop meant to reinforce Democrats' charges that protests against health care reform have been organized by political and corporate interests.
Holding up a square of bright green Astroturf, Reid said, "This is not grass roots," and added that the congressional town hall demonstrations are "about as phony as this grass."
Reid acknowledged that Americans have concerns about health care legislation, "and rightly so." But he said the protests were generated by "talk show hosts, Internet rumor mongers and insurance rackets." Reid said that the Republican Party seemed to be trying to "blow itself up," and had already imploded.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said that the events around the country are designed to "create heat but not light; that's politics."
Reid and Schumer echoed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who insisted this week that anger expressed at recent town hall meetings does not represent real voter sentiment.
But Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele faulted Democrats for dismissing what he called legitimate worries about health care reform proposals and rejected claims that the RNC or other Republicans have organized the demonstrations.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) called the congressional health care debate the most important in decades, but charged that the protests are not intended to make meaningful progress. "These groups don't care about you -- they care about YouTube," he said.
Looking ahead to next week, Durbin said he will schedule constituent meetings during the August recess, but will not hold open town hall meetings. Referring to the protesters, he said that disagreement is always welcome, but, "I don't have to put up a stage for them."
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