"I think if you look at some of the language that has been used by leaders on the Republican side, one shouldn't be surprised," Driehaus said. "Unfortunately many of us are now receiving threats, death threats."
There has been some violence bubbling up already. We reported yesterday that vandals had smashed doors and windows at five Democratic offices around the country in the days surrounding the landmark House health care vote Sunday night.
"These comments that have been made by Republican leaders can serve as--I don't know if I want to say an excuse or perhaps permission for people who may be unbalanced, who may be calling with these threats," Driehaus added.
Driehaus, a vulnerable member whose district includes part of Cincinnati, took explicit issue with House Minority Leader John Boehner, who represents a neighboring district. In an interview with National Review Boehner intoned that, if he voted for the bill, Driehaus would be a "dead man." Boehner was talking politics, but for Driehaus, it's become all too real.
"I think it's really important for folks around here, especially leader Boehner, to understand that his words have consequences," Driehaus said. "Leader Boehner suggested that if I vote yes on this bill and go home to the west side of Cincinnati, that I could be a dead man.... It really calls into question his ability to lead. He should be a statesman."
Driehaus confronted Boehner about the interview on the floor of the House. "I told him it was inexcusable," Driehaus said. "It doesn't really matter the way you meant it, nor the way I accept it. It's how the least sane person in my district accepts it."
Republicans' hardline anti-reform rhetoric is changing in the days after reform. But for Driehaus, the damage has already been done. "They are tacitly endorsing the inappropriate behavior and trying to use it to their political gain," Driehaus said. "And they're willing, apparently, to put members families at risk in order to do so."