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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer's office released the following statement this evening in response to allegations that anti-health care protestors on Capitol Hill used epithets against minority members of Congress from the Democratic caucus today.

"Today's protests against health insurance reform saw a rash of despicable, inflammatory behavior, much of it directed at minority Members of Congress. According to reports, anti-reform protestors spat on Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver, yelled a sexual slur at Rep. Barney Frank, and addressed my dear friend, Rep. John Lewis, with a racial slur that he has sadly heard far too many times. On the one hand, I am saddened that America's debate on health care--which could have been a national conversation of substance and respect--has degenerated to the point of such anger and incivility. But on the other, I know that every step toward a more just America has aroused similar hate in its own time; and I know that John Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement, has learned to wear the worst slurs as a badge of honor. "America always has room for open and spirited debate, and the hateful actions of some should not cast doubt on the good motives of the majority, on both sides of this argument. But Members of Congress and opinion leaders ought to come to terms with their responsibility for inciting the tone and actions we saw today. A debate that began with false fears of forced euthanasia has ended in a truly ugly scene. It is incumbent on all of us to do better next time."

Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) took to the House floor tonight to call on Republicans to "distance" themselves from the ugly epithets allegedly yelled at minority members of Congress by anti-health care reform protesters gathered on Capitol Hill today.

Ryan called on Republican pols who addressed today's anti-reform rally to "come out and condemn" the protesters for their alleged slurs against black members and Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), who is openly gay.

"This behavior is irresponsible it does not belong in a civilized society," Ryan said of the protests. Video after the jump.

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The Boston Globe reports that Rep. Michael Capuano (D-MA) will vote yes during tomorrow's health care reform vote after previously saying he would be a no vote on the bill.

As the Globe reports, Capuano's decision means Rep. Stephen Lynch (D) "is the only declared 'no' vote among the 10-member Massachusetts delegation."

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Rep. Emanuel Cleaver's (D-MO) office issued the following statement this evening after Cleaver alleged that an anti-health care reform protester spat on him as he entered the Capitol today.

In response to an incident earlier today, Congressman Cleaver's office has issued the following statement:

For many of the members of the CBC, like John Lewis and Emanuel Cleaver who worked in the civil rights movement, and for Mr. Frank who has struggled in the cause of equality, this is not the first time they have been spit on during turbulent times.

This afternoon, the Congressman was walking into the Capitol to vote, when one protester spat on him. The Congressman would like to thank the US Capitol Police officer who quickly escorted the others Members and him into the Capitol, and defused the tense situation with professionalism and care. After all the Members were safe, a full report was taken and the matter was handled by the US Capitol Police. The man who spat on the Congressman was arrested, but the Congressman has chosen not to press charges. He has left the matter with the Capitol Police.

This is not the first time the Congressman has been called the "n" word and certainly not the worst assault he has endured in his years fighting for equal rights for all Americans. That being said, he is disappointed that in the 21st century our national discourse has devolved to the point of name calling and spitting. He looks forward to taking a historic vote on health care reform legislation tomorrow, for the residents of the Fifth District of Missouri and for all Americans. He believes deeply that tomorrow's vote is, in fact, a vote for equality and to secure health care as a right for all. Our nation has a history of struggling each time we expand rights. Today's protests are no different, but the Congressman believes this is worth fighting for.

Tea partiers and other anti-health care activists are known to get rowdy, but today's protest on Capitol Hill--the day before the House is set to vote on historic health care legislation--went beyond the usual chanting and controversial signs, and veered into ugly bigotry and intimidation.

Civil rights hero Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) and fellow Congressional Black Caucus member Andre Carson (D-IN) related a particularly jarring encounter with a large crowd of protesters screaming "kill the bill"... and punctuating their chants with the word "nigger."

Standing next to Lewis, emerging from a Democratic caucus meeting with President Obama, Carson said people in the crowd yelled, "kill the bill and then the N-word" several times, while he and Lewis were exiting the Cannon House office building.

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) told House Democrats that he's secured a commitment from his caucus to pass the agreed-upon reconciliation measure to pave the way for final passage of health care reform. His office released his speech text as prepared for delivery.

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Pro-life Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) will vote for the health care legislation tomorrow, his office announced today in a statement. Cuellar voted for the bill last fall but was considered undecided this week thanks to the issue of the abortion language. He brings the Democrats that much closer to the needed 216 for passage.

In his statement he cited the number of uninsured in his district and the nearly $1.5 trillion deficit reduction included in the health care legislation. "In a time of extreme economic challenges, this is a pivotal moment for the nation to stem rising premiums and begin containing health care costs for the future. No longer can we stand idle as Americans compromise their health because they can't afford to get care," Cuellar said.

Our list of potential switchers is here.

[ed.note: This story was reported by Brian Beutler and written by David Kurtz]

On his way into a Democratic caucus meeting a short time ago, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced that the House would hold a straight up or down vote on the Senate health care bill, and forgo using the more complex procedural mechanisms that had proved too politically volatile.

"We determined that we can do this and it's a better process," Hoyer told reporters.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other leading Democrats had always insisted that no final decision had been made on whether to use the parliamentary procedure variously referred to as "deem and pass," the "self-executing rule," and the "Slaughter rule." But they had continued to prepare to use the procedure to ease the concerns of House Democrats who didn't want to vote on the Senate health care bill without greater assurance that it would be "fixed" by the Senate later using the reconciliation process.

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We've been tracking the Democrats who remain in play on the health care reform legislation, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi has lost a potential switcher. Rep. Harry Teague (D-NM) issued a statement saying he will remain a "no" vote because the measure doesn't cut costs enough.

The New Mexico Independent reported that Teague said he'd reviewed the final legislation and it didn't pass his test.

"I do not believe that the bill does enough to contain costs and it definitely does not do enough to rein in the out of control insurance companies that are driving up healthcare costs in this country," Teague said in the statement, the Independent reported. "In fact, I believe we are doing more for the insurance companies than we are for the people who need this coverage, and that is why, despite the positive steps it takes, I must vote against this bill."

House Democratic leadership has apparently told Rep. Bart Stupak (D-MI) to go take a hike--and they'll move forward without him, or any other anti-abortion Dems threatening to switch their votes from 'yes' to 'no.'

Just off the House floor moments ago, Pelosi told reporters there will be "no separate vote" on abortion or any other measure.

And Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), a leading pro-choice progressive, said they're moving ahead without him. "There's not going to be any deal made with Mr. Stupak...there's been no deal whatsoever. He's been told that his language is not going to be added to the legislation," she told me this morning.

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