Published July 23, 2003
WASHINGTON – House Democrats are still peeved at Republicans over last week's brouhaha involving the Ways and Means Committee (search) -- and in kind, they began the familiar political tactic of stalling to get even.
"This is how tyranny can begin in America," said Congressman Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat.
The minority party in the House, the old saying goes, cannot deny but it can delay. And so on Tuesday Democrats began parliamentary moves designed to slow progress.
"I say this not as a threat, but as a prediction: This will be a week from hell for the Republicans," vowed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday.
The uproar has to do with the blowout on Friday in the House Ways and Means committee room. At issue were both the acerbic leadership style of Committee Chairman Bill Thomas (search) and inflammatory remarks made by California Democrat Pete Stark (search) to some of his Republican colleagues.
Democrats are fuming because Thomas ordered Capitol police to kick out Dems who had retired to a nearby library in protest of the bill approval proceedings. They were angry Thomas got verbal approval for a bill the Democrats said they hadn't even seen.
Republicans justified the police involvement by saying they felt physically threatened. And they remained furious over Stark's outburst in reaction to the meeting, during which he called Thomas a "****sucker" and Republican Scott McInnis (search) a "wimp" and a "fruitcake." Some characterized the slurs as "anti-gay," though McInnis is married and, by all accounts, not gay.
House Republican leader Tom Delay told reporters he found Stark's comments "incredibly offensive."
"I'm shocked the media hasn't treated him like they treat others that make these kinds of remarks," Delay said.
Stark said Monday he regrets the insults he hurled at McInnis.
"I had a poor choice of words," he said. "Fruitcake to me means inept, crazy, nutcake."
When asked later if he also aimed a vulgar, anti-gay slur in the direction of Thomas, Stark said, "I'm certain that at some point in the last year I called Chairman Thomas a ' ****sucker,' but not last Friday."
But five sources have confirmed to Fox News that they heard Stark call Thomas that "sucker" word at Friday's meeting -- and another choice term that can't be cleaned up for print.
As for Thomas' behavior, Democrats want an apology to ranking committee Democrat Charlie Rangel and assurances that Republicans will work with the minority in a more bipartisan manner in the future.
To that end, Thomas and other Ways and Means Republicans were summoned to a hastily called meeting on Tuesday in the office of House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Republican sources said the meeting didn't go well for Thomas, and at one point he offered a tearful apology.
As to Thomas' fate, some Republicans left the meeting believing that it was at least possible Thomas might not survive as chairman of the committee.
Fox News' Brian Wilson contributed to this report.