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Health care debate moments that make up yearlong circus

Its fate possibly decided this week, the yearlong struggle over health care legislation has been a rollercoaster ride, sometimes bringing out the worst in Congress and the nation. Here are the debate’s most circus-like moments:

June 2009:
Left-wing pundit Bill Maher criticized President Barack Obama’s lack of progress on health care, saying, “This isn’t what I voted for.” Maher continuously knocked Obama, in February, calling the televised summit “total bull----.”

August 2009:
* Sarah Palin accused Obama of creating a “death panel,” and said his reform plan gives “bureaucrats” the power to decide whether her Down syndrome-stricken son or elderly parents are worthy of health care.

* A protester armed with an assault rifle attended a health care rally outside a Phoenix convention hall where Obama was speaking. The man was legally, openly carrying the guns and was not charged with a crime, but he was also one of many who brought guns to health care events across the U.S.

* During the Congressional break, dozens of town hall-style debates on health care reform across the U.S. turned raucous. Politicians were heckled, shouted down and even hung in effigy.

September 2009:
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouted “you lie” at Obama during the president’s health care speech to Congress. The outburst came as Obama vowed reform would not provide free care to undocumented immigrants. Wilson later apologized. (Photo: Getty)

February:
* Vice President Joe Biden voiced his doubts on the televised health care summit by telling the News Journal of Delaware that the White House-hosted event “could be pure theater.” Biden added, “This could end up not being good.”

* Obama defied his cool-headed reputation and took a shot at former presidential rival Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) during the televised summit, accusing him to using talking points and saying “We’re not campaigning anymore. The election is over.”

This month:
* Amid reports of tickle fights with male staffers and alleged sexual harassment, Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.) blamed Democrats for forcing him out in order to pass the health care bill. It was one of several explanations Massa offered for his resignation.

* Tea Party activists protesting House votes Saturday reportedly used racial epithets toward black Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and spat at Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.). They also reportedly used gay slurs against Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.).

* A protester Sunday shouted “Kill the bill. The people don’t want this” in the House gallery and some Republican lawmakers stood up to cheer him on, Frank said.

emily.ngo@am-ny.com

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