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"Baby Killer" speculation dominates Web buzz after healthcare vote

Video by Jonathan CRANE

Text by Lorena GALLIOT

Latest update : 2010-03-23

Online talk about Sunday’s healthcare vote is not about politics, nor healthcare for that matter. Why discuss the bill’s content when shouts of "Baby Killer!" in the House and Rush Limbaugh’s leaving party are so much more entertaining?

Healthcare reform dominated the US blogosphere and social networking sites early

Monday after the US House of Representatives passed the landmark bill by a narrow, hard-fought 219-212 vote.

Although the bill has been labelled a major political victory for US President Barack Obama, the White House’s online response to the historic vote was relatively restrained.

In an email to his supporters, dispatched into inboxes just hours after the vote, Obama stressed his “profound gratitude” to the “members of Congress whose months of effort and brave votes made it possible to take this final step”. The White House blog early Monday simply repeated the public statement made by the president shortly after the vote.

Highlights of Democrats’ new healthcare reform

 - Insurers cannot deny patients coverage for pre-existing conditions or charge higher premiums due to gender or medical history.

- Insurance exchanges to be created to help small businesses and the unemployed buy less expensive coverage.

- Individuals without coverage would face a fine, with the exception of poorer Americans.

- Subsidies for families earning less than $88,000 annually.

- Surtax on people earning more than $200,000 annually.

- States could choose whether to ban abortion coverage in plans offered in insurance exchanges.

- No public option.

On social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook however, political pundits and ordinary doubters showed no such restraint. “Obamacare! Enhancing the lives of every American, even those too stupid to realise it” wrote web user heatherkitching on Twitter, while her Conservative counterparts on the social networking site bemoaned the “death of freedom” and the “dawn of socialism” in America.

Who shouted “Baby Killer”?

While responses to the bill trickled in during the course of the House vote, by early Monday, cyber-chatter was dominated by speculation over who was the mysterious voice that shouted “Baby Killer!” at pro-life Democratic representative Bart Stupak, who changed his vote at the last minute in favour of the reform..

Stupak was the leader of a coalition of “pro-life Democrats” who had previously opposed the bill due to their belief that it failed to guarantee that there would not be taxpayer funding for abortions. Their resistance was overcome by Obama’s assurance over the weekend to issue an executive order affirming the existing ban on taxpayer funding for abortion.

On Sunday, as Stupak took to the floor, a cry of “Baby Killer” rung through the air, causing Congressmen to groan as another voice shouted, “Who’s that?”

The “Baby Killer” chatter was reminiscent of Republican representative Joe Wilson's infamous “You Lie!” remark last September during an Obama speech before Congress. Wilson later apologised for his outburst, calling it “inappropriate and regrettable”.

On website, journalists Jake Sherman and Meredith Shiner said the shout came from the Republican side of the House. Their article included a video clip of the now infamous incident.

The speculation led Twitter user aknihtaK to quip, “No one is saying who shouted “Baby Killer”. Congress and prison have two things in common: 1.Lots of criminals and 2. No snitching”.

So long, Rush!

The healthcare battle in Congress

On the Liberal front, several micro-bloggers were gleefully reminding Conservative radio-show host Rush Limbaugh, a vocal opponent of the healthcare reform, of his recent pledge to leave the country “within months” if the healthcare bill was passed.

“Well, Rush, time to keep your promise. Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out of the country,” tweeted Coughlan, while his fellow micro-blogger HeyItsJaii gloated that “Successful healthcare reform + Rush Limbaugh promising to leave the US = double win for everyone! Deuces!"

The mood was far more somber among Republican Twitter users, which can be perfectly summed up by one user's despondent tweet: “R.I.P. United States: (b. 1776- d. 2010) - Survived by none. Died in poverty. With a last breath muttered "kill the bill".

Meanwhile, a post on CBS’s political blog detailing the content of the bill quickly became the most linked-to article on social bookmarking site Delicious Monday morning, as American Web users wondered what practical implications the newly voted reform will bring to their lives.

Date created : 2010-03-22

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