WASHINGTON -- Seeking payback from a recent reprimand of one of their own for heckling President Barack Obama, House Republicans want a Democratic lawmaker to apologize or face a reprimand for saying the GOP wants Americans to "die quickly" if they get sick.
Amid the bitter political bickering, Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida stood firmly behind his comments.
The first-term lawmaker returned to the House floor Wednesday afternoon and mocked the Republicans' call for an apology by citing a study being published in the American Journal of Public Health that found nearly 45,000 people die each year for lack of health insurance.
"I would like to apologize. ... I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven't voted sooner to end this Holocaust in America," he said.
Grayson's initial comments came Tuesday as he criticized Republican health care proposals as a "blank piece of paper."
"If you get sick, America, the Republican health care plan is this: Die quickly," he said on the House floor. "That's right. The Republicans want you to die quickly if you get sick."
The rhetoric wasn't spontaneous: He reinforced his point with signs saying the same thing.
Republicans immediately called for an apology, likening the comments to Rep. Joe Wilson's widely criticized shout of "You lie" during Obama's address to Congress on Sept. 9.
They said Democrats should insist that Grayson apologize, just as they insisted that Wilson should. Wilson did apologize to Obama.
Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, who heads the conservative Republican Study Committee, drafted a "resolution of disapproval" that mirrors the one Democrats approved against Wilson, from South Carolina, saying Grayson's conduct was "a breach of decorum and degraded the integrity and proceedings of the House."
"The American people want open and honest discussion," said Price, whose efforts had the backing of Republican leadership. "They want respectful discussion."